John Eldredge wrote a great deal on repentance. Because I do not have his book in front of me, I am paraphrasing him here:
To experience the sorrow that leads to genuine repentance, let go of the sinful things that seem to provide a sense of security, comfort, joy or relief. As you do, you will discover tentacles of dependence deep in your soul. You’ll feel anxious, and will try to find compensation through work, food or hobbies. You will have the urge to flee back to your old ways.
If you stand firm, you will experience a deep sense of loss. We can make an idol of anything, especially if it’s something that makes us feel good. God must break us in order to save us.
Isn’t that powerful? I found I needed to redirect the personality flaws that were corrupting both my physical and spiritual life. It reminded me of the deep sadness that filled me while going through the Pure Freedom course at Setting Captives Free.
I know very well this emotional state that John Eldredge describes – the anxiety as one seeks to live in purity. At one stage in my life I wanted to go back to the sexual sin. I realized that I was holding onto several bogus needs that provided me with a false sense of security. While I had resisted walking in Christ, allowing my flesh to rule me, I felt in control. Binge eating gave me pleasure. Viewing pornography gave me a sense of manhood that assured me I could manage conflict at work. Even reliance on friends and advisers had become a cycle of failure and confession. I was like a flying kite still tied to a rock. I was going who knows where, without guidance, because I was anchored in sin and harmful behavior.
While leaving each of these counterfeit feelings of security, I felt very fearful. I wanted to go back to what was comfortable. But when searching for where to run, I suddenly recognized that the only safe place to go was to Christ and his cross. And so losing my phony places of security, allowed me to find the much needed genuine repentance, turning away from my sin and turning back toward God.
9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 2 Corinthians 7: 9-11 NIV