Why We Find It So Difficult to Change
As Christians, we realize that we are to grow in Christ, and that involves changing our thoughts and actions when we see that our lives are not in line with the teachings of Christ and the inspired writings of His apostles. But often we find that it’s not so easy to overcome some of our old sinful ways.
When we first recognize where we are falling short, it may be in our language, how we treat our spouses or children, our actions at work, watching inappropriate TV shows or web sites--just to mention a few of our failings. Then we tell ourselves we are going to have to do better. We pray about it and ask for forgiveness and for a while we might really do better. But far too often we find ourselves falling back into the same old ways, usually without even realizing it. When we do realize it, we feel ashamed, maybe embarrassed with ourselves and we make determined, renewed efforts to do better... only to find that the cycle goes on and on.
So what’s wrong? Why can’t we make our changes permanent? No doubt there is no one answer that applies to all situations, but maybe it’s because we haven’t repented in the manner a Christian is supposed to. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
Now we know repentance is a change in how we think that leads to a change in how we live. But what leads to that change? It’s sorrow (grief). We might say “I’ve had lots of sorrow because of my sinful habits, so why doesn’t that help me change my ways?” The above passage makes it plain that not just any sorrow will work to really change us. It must be godly sorrow. So how does godly sorrow differ from worldly sorrow? Worldly sorrow isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is primarily centered in us personally. It is how we feel about ourselves because of our sins (disgusted, embarrassed, ashamed etc.). Godly sorrow, on the other hand, has to do with our relationship with God and how our sin detracts from His glory. The difference is huge and the end result is a repentance that that produces the change we really want.
Why does this sorrow cause change? Because our mindset has changed. We are no longer thinking about ourselves but about God. When our greatest desire is to glorify God and our greatest shame is taking away from his glory, then our behavior will truly change.