What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? How did you come back from it? How did you recover?
The worst thing I’ve ever done to someone sounds simple – it was just a brief fight. But I lost my cool. I said hurtful things on purpose. I literally screamed at them.
Later, I wondered what would happen next. How could I pick up the pieces of our relationship and put them back together again? How could we come back from this?
What happens when the relationship that has broken is the one between us and God? When the fight was between me and God? When we’ve sinned repeatedly and boldly and knowingly?
How do we come back to God?
Well, how did the Israelites do it?
Granted, they don’t seem like the greatest example off the bat. They departed from and came back to God so many times. If they were so good at it, why didn’t it stick?
But on the other hand, they did it so often, they must have a lot of intel on how to do it, and even how not to do it.
And Judges 10 is a pretty good example of how to do it.
The Israelites have cycled through a few leaders and are back on the outs with God. They’ve turned back to idol worship. They aren’t reading the Bible anymore or praying. They’re eagerly and freely committing their favorite sins.
And then punishment comes. This time, it comes in the form of the Philistines and the Ammonites (verse 7).
The Philistines and the Ammonites break the Israelites. They pick them apart and exploit their weaknesses. They oppress them, shatter them, crush them (verse 8).
So the Israelites have a change of heart. Their idols and pet sins can’t save them or even take away their pain. So they turn back to God.
Just like that.
The first step in coming back to God is both the hardest and the simplest – just come.
It’s as simple as dropping everything and whispering a prayer.
It’s as simple as turning around.
It’s as simple as saying, “Hey, I want to stop this. I want You back.”
It’s just simple. Come.
For others of us, though, coming is not the hardest part.
We do it all the time, like the Israelites. The whispered prayer. The sudden determination never to do this again. The hopeful start.
And then, like the Israelites, we slip back into our old sins, our old apathy, our old distance from God.
Round and round we go in our sin cycle, and each time it gets a little bit harder to try again.
It’s kind of like how this time, when the Israelites tried coming to God, it seems like He pushes them away.
“You have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”verses 13-14
It’s brutal. It’s not like Him. The loving, forgiving God refusing to forgive? Refusing to love?
Or was He testing His children? Was He teaching them that coming is not enough? Was He suggesting that in order to truly come back to God, you have to come and then commit?
Because that’s what the Israelites did. They dug their heels in. They settled down and staked their claim on God’s forgiveness. They prayed honestly. They got rid of their old idols, cut themselves off from their old favorite sins.
And just like that, they were home. Because guess what? God had already committed to them.
“You need to change. I will help you.”
There has to be more.
There has to be another step.
The Israelites kept failing, and trying, and failing, and trying until they failed for the last time and murdered the Son of God.
What did they miss? What did they do wrong? How can we avoid their mistakes?
After we come to Jesus, and commit to Jesus, we have to let Jesus change us.
Because as much as we don’t like to hear it, as much as it flies in the face of our pride and self-obsession, we need to change. We all need to change.
We have tendencies and habits and vices that threaten our happiness, our relationships, our health, and our lives. Left to our own devices, we will only suffer. We have to change in order to be happy.
It’s refusing to change that causes us to repeat the cycle. It’s refusing to change that drives us to slip into sin again. It’s refusing to change that leads to addictions and downward spirals and the pain we blame God for.
It’s refusing to change that will keep us from coming back to Jesus.
Change is scary. To surrender, to acknowledge that Someone other than we knows best, to loosen our grip on every dumb toy and distraction that we love so much – all of that is hard. But not doing it will end up making our lives so much harder.
So let’s warm up to it. Change. Let’s ask God to do it. Let’s surrender everything we used to cling to, everything we used to turn to for happiness. Let’s hold tightly to Jesus instead. Let’s choose to believe Him over ourselves.
Let’s come back to Jesus. And this time, let’s believe, that through His strength, we’ll never leave him again.
What do you think? How can we make this time the last time we come back to God?