For me, James is one of the most challenging books in the Bible. He doesn’t mince words when calling us out about our walk with God and our struggle with our sin nature. He calls it like it is, which can be very hard to hear and very convicting. But often times, conviction is exactly what we need. In James chapter 4, verses 8 through 10 the Bible says:
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
This portion of scripture is clearly a message of repentance. James challenges us to make our lives right before God; to wash our hands and purify our hearts. He’s basically telling us to get serious about our walk, to repent of our sin and to turn back to Christ. He tells us to grieve, mourn and wail because of our disobedience, which indicates true repentance. Then he continues by telling us to humble ourselves before the Lord and he will lift us up. I believe the most difficult time to pray is right after we’ve sinned. At least that is true for me. I feel so ashamed and unworthy of God that I find it difficult to understand why he would hear and forgive me. But that is exactly the time we need to be on our knees before him, when we are broken and contrite. James tells us that we are to humble ourselves before the Lord and he will ultimately lift us back up.
Repenting before the Lord can be difficult. No one wants to feel guilty and ashamed. No one likes to feel as if they’ve done something wrong that requires forgiveness. But we are sinners, and to walk with a Holy God means that we need to wash our hands and purify our hearts when we fall. There is no other way. Your sins won’t be forgiven without asking for it. And the act of asking doesn’t really matter if we’re not ready to truly repent. So, I encourage you, if you are far from God, or if you’re caught up in sin, to repent and do what James suggests. Wash your hands, purify your hearts, grieve, mourn and wail, humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.