Just because one sinks to the depths doesn’t mean one has a truly repentant heart.

It is hard for me to believe; six months and out the door. Sue (name changed) and I had lunch to discuss her recent marriage and upcoming divorce. Her groom quickly broke his wedding vows. Sue professes being a believer. Prior to the marriage, Sue disregarded her counselor who strongly urged Sue not to get married. Her fiancé is not a Christ follower. Now Sue drowns in a sea of remorse. I mention some Scriptures that might help and Sue adamantly says, “How can Scripture help? After all, we know that the Bible is made up of a lot of fables. Take Jonah and the whale for instance.”


Jesus does not have the same attitude about Scripture as Sue. He references the account of Jonah as literal in Matthew 12:40-41. It’s interesting that Sue and Jonah share the same wrong mindset toward the sanctity of God’s Word and commands. God has told both Sue and Jonah to turn right and they run in the opposite direction. Sue runs into a disaster of a marriage and Jonah takes a ship to nowhere. Regardless, Sue wants God to make her happy again, even though she rejects His Word. Jonah wants to again breathe on dry land.


Sue and Jonah share something else – a lack of repentance. Remorse is quite different than repentance. Sue regrets her unhappiness and Jonah regrets his lack of oxygen. Remorse is a sadness or disappointment over something that has happened. Repentance is to rearrange your entire way of thinking, feeling, and behavior in order to forsake that which is wrong. Sue regrets losing her marriage. She is not interested that God has a good plan for her life. Jonah regrets not being on dry land. They share remorse but not repentance.


A truly repentant heart is expressed by David: Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.   Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. (Psalm 51:2-9 NLT) Contrast this with Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2. Do you hear Jonah recognizing his rebellion; owning up to his sin? Does he confess the enormity of his disregard of God? Or is his prayer a “hail Mary”? The kind of prayer you utter when you have used all your lifelines. It’s the scream of one drowning.


Jonah purposely turned the opposite direction from God and ends up being been cast into the sea. Our merciful God rescues Jonah but lets him flounder around in the insides of a fish for three terrifying days. Yes, Jonah ends up going to Nineveh and fulfills the original command given by God. Yet if you look at Jonah 4, Jonah is angry at God compassion. Jonah throws a tantrum when the shade tree he sits under wilts. God addresses the real heart disease of Jonah in 4:10-11: Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”. I wonder if Jonah ever comes to terms with God?


I still wonder if my friend Sue ever accepts the God Who knows what is right and can be trusted. Will she repent of her heart attitude? Does she recognize her rebellion? Does it haunt her day and night? Just because one sinks to the depths doesn’t mean one has a truly repentant heart. Maybe your heart needs a checkup on its own relationship to God. Has sin taken up residence? Don’t be a Sue and definitely don’t be a Jonah.