"He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3a, KJV).
Have you ever had the experience of waking up in the morning and asking yourself, "How have I gotten to this place? What has happened to me? Where did I go wrong?" The realization that you were in the wrong place under the wrong set of circumstances hit you like a ton of bricks. You suddenly realized that you had missed the right turn a few miles back down the road of life. Now you are asking, "How do I get out of this mess? Or is there a way out at all?"
Long ago Jesus told us about such a person, a young man who wanted his inheritance while he was young enough to enjoy it. According to the record, he "set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living." Eventually, tough times faced him, and one day he woke up realizing that he had made a mess of his life.
The following guidelines will help you straighten out your life and your thinking when you realize that poor choices have gotten you into trouble and you want out.
Guideline #1: Realistically evaluate where you are. This young man did just that. "He came to his senses" is exactly how Jesus put it. Straight thinking begins when you honestly admit to being where you are.
Guideline #2: Bury your pride. It takes a great deal of humility to do this, but it's absolutely necessary to get back on track. This young man asked himself, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!"
Guideline #3: Formulate a plan. Do you know where you want to be? Until you have a goal and a plan on how to get back on track, you only wander in circles. It is at this point that a trusted friend or a counselor can help you, someone who is honest enough to tell you the truth without flattery or the intent to further hurt you. The young man Jesus told about said, "I will set out and go back to my father..." He knew where he wanted to go. A plan is necessary, but it isn't the hardest part of the journey. The next step is...
Guideline #4: Admit your failure. This step requires humility and the honest admission that you were wrong. "Father," confessed the young man, "I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son..." That, friend, is tough for anyone. It may require you saying something like that to your wife or husband, to your father, or your employer. Certainly it requires us to admit failure, perhaps sin, openly and candidly before God.
Guideline #5: Follow through. A lot of people are willing to admit failure, but they only grovel in despair because they are unwilling to put one foot in front of the other and do something about it. Follow-through requires motion. "So he got up and went to his father," is the way Jesus described this important step. He had rehearsed his lines. He knew exactly what to say, but he didn't know how he would be received. And what happened? Here's the record, "But when he was a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Most people are far more willing to forgive you and help you straighten out your life than you may expect.
Guideline #6: Make restitution as necessary. If people refuse to forgive the harm you have done, the problem is theirs, not yours, but you have done the right thing in admitting failure and doing something about it. The result in your life is restoration and peace. When you admit that your thinking has gone wacky, it's time to do something about it.
Resource reading: Luke 15:11-32