Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit
We damage our relationships with God and others through our sins. Sorrow for our sins is a gift from God and through His grace we better understand the pain our sins cause. Teresa says, “the more [we] receive from our God, the greater grows [our] sorrow for sin”. Appropriate sorrow brings healing and health.
Appropriate sorrow for sin is different than the shame-based approach to sin fueled by externalism and marked by condemnation. Condemnation and shame obscure the true beauty and dignity of the soul.
Appropriate sorrow is also different than the “fire insurance policy” approach to sin that confers instant forgiveness without past or future responsibility. We make sin and forgiveness about avoiding punishment (i.e. a literal hell). Some Christians talk about “hell” in terms of a “lake of fire” where people are tortured by God forever. Prior to this eternal torture he also pummels the earth with judgments. This is misguided thinking, careless hermeneutics, and a misrepresentation of God.
We do, however, create a certain kind of “hell” as we choose to distance ourselves from God and others through our sins. This “hell” becomes “hotter” because of our unwillingness to see our sins and refusal to forgive others for sins far less egregious than our own. But this “hell” isn’t God punishing us; it’s a self-imposed exile from Him and others.
But appropriate sorrow helps us find a way out of hell as God places “a new and right spirit” within us.