Question:I have doubts about repentance. I suffer from depression. At times I feel really sad, at times I feel really angry, but at times I feel nothing -- not sad, not happy or angry, just, an empty room. So I hope that what I'm going to tell you is caused by depression.
My boyfriend and I did things we shouldn't have on the Internet. Before that, I was feeling kind of distant from God or God was distant to me. It seemed like I was miles away. It was more difficult to read the Bible, listen to sermons, and other godly things. Then after we did things, it got worse. I started to feel more dead than ever. I've even wondered if I can still repent, since I feel so dead.
I've told God how sorry I am already. Even though at times we say things we shouldn't on the phone or the Internet, I'm not letting it go further than that. I'm trying to correct this habit of talking about what we shouldn't.
I don't know what happened. The first times we did it, I could still feel my repentance strong and now it's so weak. I don't wanna be like Esau.
How do I know my repentance is genuine?
I've noticed over the years that people who suffer from depression often find their feelings to be more real to them than facts. Genuineness doesn't come from your feelings. What is real is what you do. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10).
Repentance isn't a feeling. It is changing the way you behave. "... that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20). Repentance isn't about being sorry. Sorrow triggers the desire to repent, but they aren't the same thing. "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:9-11).
I suspect that the problem is that you know you've been behaving badly. You know you need to change and you try at times to change, but it is a lot easier to follow old habits. You haven't fully convinced yourself that you need to change.
Sin is like burning yourself. At first it hurts a whole lot, but as you repeatedly burn yourself, you get numb its effect. You get calloused to its presence. Paul warned about this in regards to false teaching. You get exposed to false ideas often enough and it doesn't bother you nearly as much as it did at the beginning. "... having their own conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Timothy 4:2). All sin works the same way.
What you are noticing in yourself is that you are getting numb to doing this particular sin. It really bothered you at first, but now that you done it so often, it isn't bothering you as much -- but you know it ought to. And knowing you are not doing right is feeding your depression.
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears" (Hebrews 12:14-17).
Esau wanted the blessing. He wanted it so badly that he pleaded and cried for it. But he could not have it because "he found no place for repentance." He wanted the benefits, but he would not change his behavior. The world is filled with people like that. They want heaven, but they don't want to live godly in order to obtain it. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? ... knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:1-2, 6).
Can you repent of your sins? Of course! Anyone can, if they want to. The only person stopping yourself, at the moment, is you.
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6).