Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
When someone falls into sin, we often speak about repentance and a “restoration process.” But what should the restoration process look like? Having been through the process myself, I believe that it requires three things:
1. The restoration process requires a balance of grace and truth. See Psalm 85:10-11. This usually means counseling (strong on grace) and accountability (strong on truth). It is imperative that the fallen person have people pour both grace and truth into their lives very early in the restoration process.
2. The restoration process requires a “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2). This is the literal meaning of the Greek word for repentance, metanoia. There are three parts to this new way of thinking:
A. First, one learns to focus on praising God, which lifts from depression. See Psalm 42.
B. Second, one learns to forgive oneself. This usually takes time. C.S. Lewis said, “If God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it’s like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
C. Third, one learns to reject living in the past. See Philippians 3:13-14. Frank Pollard says, “To dwell on past sins is to invite one of two things: thinking about it will lead you to sin again, or you will spend your time in self-destructive despair. God has placed our sins in the sea of His forgetfulness and has put up a sign: ‘No Fishing Here.’”
3. The restoration process requires activity. A fall into sin usually results in being cut off from an activity the person loved; the sinner is acutely conscious of what he or she can no longer do. Within a few weeks of the fall, they must become busy doing something good to replace the former activity; otherwise, they can fall from idleness to depression and worse sin. This is the replacement principle found in Matthew 12:43-45. For example, a fallen coach can volunteer to help Little League baseball, a fallen pastor can volunteer to teach the Bible at a prison. Charles Spurgeon said, “Sedentary habits have a tendency to despondency.”
The restoration process can reclaim fallen people to service. Just ask Moses, David, Peter and Paul! But it will take time and personal investment in their lives.
Her name is Sabrina. I don’t even know her last name. My two children and I were enjoying lunch at a local restaurant, when this attractive, beautifully dressed woman of color entered with her little girl.
Something more than her appearance struck me. Her girl (perhaps 3 years old) tried desperately to capture her mother’s attention, but to no avail. “Something is wrong with this picture,” I thought.
Understanding suffering helps to identify it, perhaps. I recognize it well. So, I began to pray for an opportunity to speak with this lady, whose daughter was now twirling down the aisle in a ruffled dress.
We finished lunch. The kids took my keys and headed to the van to read. My plan was to initiate conversation with this new friend who had spoken to me when I went to the counter. She liked my “Fruit of the Spirit” bracelet. I thanked her, and began to listen to her story.
I learned that Sabrina had flown back home to Georgia for a funeral that very day. One of her parents died years ago. Now the other was gone, too. Then she said, “Two weeks ago, I buried my husband. He committed suicide.”
There was a long silence. Sabrina motioned toward her precious little girl and continued, “She doesn’t even know her daddy’s gone.”
We sat there for what seemed an eternity, saying nothing.
For years I have shared my faith in Christ, and knew countless methods by which to do so. At that moment I felt compelled to simply tell my story.
Although very different, our stories had one thing in common. We both realized that sometimes life comes at you. Before you can catch your breath, the wind is knocked out of you.
Sabrina wanted to hear. So, I shared wave after wave of painful events I experienced as a young person. That was the hard part. Then, I was able to share the good news!
One night in my apartment in Athens, Georgia, I gave my life (and all my hurt) to the Lord. A poem called “Surrender” in a Home Life magazine riveted my heart. Immediately, it was as if my Heavenly Father whispered, “Baby girl, I know all your hurts. You are trying to be strong. Just give up. Rely on Me. Surrender everything to Me.”
The flood gates opened! I got on my knees. I gave Christ control of my life. Running from God was wearing me out, anyway! No longer desiring to lead my own life and make poor decisions, I surrendered my past, present, and future to Christ in a radical abandonment of self.
I told Sabrina that although I knew nothing about living the exchanged life with Christ, as Galatians 2:20 offers, this is exactly what occurred. I have never been the same! There was an unexplainable freedom and joy. Christ overwhelmed me with His love and peace.
I will never forget the hopelessness in her eyes when she asked, “What does it mean to surrender?” I told her about God’s love for us through Christ’s death on the cross and His power over death in His resurrection. To my amazement, I found myself offering my treasured bracelet to Sabrina. Tears filled her eyes as we parted ways.
Sabrina’s question haunted me for days. “What does it mean to surrender?” At that time, I only understood what it meant to me personally. It was a radical abandonment of self to Christ. As I searched Scripture, words like “submit,” “yield,” and “offer up” ourselves took on deeper meaning. Ultimately, surrender is the posture of our heart humbled before Christ’s Lordship.
Because Sabrina was experiencing complicated grief, and was still somewhat in shock, I did not expect her to make a decision to follow Christ immediately. I did, however, envision that she would benefit greatly from our divinely-orchestrated conversation later in her journey.
Although there are many benefits to a “Surrendered life” to Christ, three obvious benefits are:
Healing Begins – We literally change focus from self to Christ, and He sets us free! John Piper says, “The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center. We are all starved for the glory of God, not self.”
1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB) encourages to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God… casting all your anxiety (cares) upon Him, because He cares for you.”
In the gospel, we “see and savor the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). This kind of “seeing” is literally the healing of our disordered lives.
Maximizes Study of God’s Word – The attitude and posture of our hearts, a “yieldedness” to Christ through faith, increases our receptivity of God’s Word. When our hearts are receptive, we gain clearer understanding.
In Romans 12: 1-2, we are encouraged to “Offer yourselves to God” first, that we may be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”
Overcomes Deceptive Thinking – Truth always trumps deceptive thinking. Jesus, in fact, defines reality! For years I have had a front row seat in the counseling office to witness the truth of God’s Word (when applied to receptive hearts) expose and overcome deceptive thinking.
Submission is a protection against deception. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NASB).
Christ transforms people by exposing the blind spots and disconnects in our lives and relationships. Our goal is not to overcome our issues necessarily, but rather to engage them with a growing knowledge of Christ. It begins by bowing to Christ’s Lordship.
Although we may never meet again here on this earth, I hope to see Sabrina again one day! She’ll probably be wearing the bracelet I gave, or should I say, that I “surrendered,” to her.
Question: How would you have answered Sabrina’s question, “What does it mean to surrender?” Do you remember your own radical abandonment of “self” to Christ’s Lordship?
(Sherri Edenfield Hall is a Biblical Counselor with Creative Counseling Solutions for Women, and Inspirational Speaker, who resides in Macon, GA. To inquire for speaking engagements, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The grief process is always very difficult and especially so during the holidays. Even the smallest memories will bring about a flood of painful thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or how to deal with these thoughts or the empty place on Christmas Day. Here are a few helpful suggestions:
Wrap a favorite keepsake or framed picture of your loved one, and give it as a gift to another grieving family member.
Create a special ornament with the name of your loved one and hang it on your Christmas tree.
Decorate a candle and light it at meal time in memory of your loved one.
Make a donation to a favorite charity in the person’s honor. Create a scholarship to keep the memory of the loved one alive and announce it at a holiday gathering of family and friends.
Purchase a Christmas book, perhaps a favorite of your loved one, and donate it to your local library or school. Ask the librarian to place a label in the front cover in memory of your loved one.
Bring your loved one’s favorite food to share at Christmas dinner. Mention their name in the blessing over the food.
Encourage grieving children to draw pictures and create gifts inspired by their memories of the one who died, to give to other family members.
Decorate and hang a cut-out star in your home, write on the star your hopes and dreams for the future. Thinking about tomorrow is part of the healing.
Once you have remembered your loved one, make sure you remember yourself. Take care of your needs. Be gentle. Do what you can and no more and no less.