This is the first post of seven in Faith Bites’ 2017  Lenten blog series.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (Acts 3:19) New International Version.

Facing our demons can be exceptionally difficult, especially when those demons are mistakes we’ve mad, sins we’ve committed. I, like many other young people in today’s world, am anxious most days about something or other. Most often, I’m anxious over relatively small things or things that I think are more condemning than they probably actually are. The amount of self-doubt and worry I experience as a result of my own actions often leaves me exhausted and wanting to do something light or happy that doesn’t require so much mental and emotional energy. Sometimes doing something to distract myself, like watching Netflix or even indulging in a little retail therapy, is helpful and appropriate. But sometimes, trying to take my mind off of my anxiety just makes me more anxious.

We’ve all had the nagging feeling that we’re not dealing with something head-on that needs to be dealt with, but that is not especially fun to deal with. This could be finally getting around to cleaning your bathroom (unless you enjoy cleaning bathrooms—I do not), organizing the mess of papers on your desk, or sitting down and responding to all those emails piling up in your inbox. This feeling can also come about as a result of some internal struggle. Most often, this has to do with either neglecting to manage stress, or failing to acknowledge that you have sinned in some way— ignoring your conscience, which only seems to consume you more the more you resist it.

Perhaps you haven’t yet begun taking the steps to forgive someone for something they did to you or to someone else. Perhaps you’ve failed to reschedule lunch with a family member who cares about you. Perhaps you’ve committed a crime and hurt someone in the process. Perhaps you’ve been too hard on yourself lately.

Whatever it is, “repenting and turning to God” is something most of us leave off until we can’t ignore it anymore. Or we try to distract ourselves from it, finding superficial comfort in food, TV shows, movies, alcohol, drugs or dissatisfying relationships. We even think sometimes that talking to a friend about whatever we’re going through can resolve everything. As tempting as that idea is, it doesn’t replace the on-your-knees, by yourself, honest-to-goodness silence that we need to be able to talk to God candidly about how we have sinned and ask for forgiveness.

The difference between talking to a friend about your sins and talking to God about it is that normally when we approach friends about problems, we’re looking for comfort and assurance that what we have done isn’t so bad. While this may be objectively true, often times this only offers temporary relief. No matter what the sin is—not rescheduling lunch with your friend, not forgiving someone, murder, assault—God is the only one who can offer us what we really need: permanent, unending forgiveness.

While it can be extremely challenging to motivate myself to speak to God openly about my sins, repenting is not unlike finally getting to that bathroom cleaning, paper organizing, or email responding—the minute I start, I know I’m finally starting to deal. I’m facing the task head-on—acknowledging all of the messiness and, though I can never repay God for my sins, asking him to forgive me anyway.

What’s different about repenting for one’s sins and say, cleaning, is that with repenting, you get an amazing friend to help you do it. While God wants us to atone for our wrongdoings, he also wants us to remember that he’s there to help us do it. He’s there to help guide us through the messiness, and to hold our hand as we face it. It’s easy to forget this part—if it’s my sin, it’s on me to bear the weight of that, right? Yes and no. While God calls on us to acknowledge our sins to the fullest, the great thing about being a Christian is that we don’t have to face anything—even our sins—alone. And the even greater thing is that after we have repented, we get to leave the weight of our sins behind, totally and permanently.

My Lenten discipline for 2017 is to read at least one of the Daily Offices—Morning, Noontime, Evening Prayer or Compline— from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. If you’re not familiar with the BCP, which has many wonderful resources for prayer and devotion for all Christians (much of the language in it is directly from the Bible), here’s a digitized version: BCP ONLINE. Psalm 4 is included in Compline, which is supposed to be prayed at the end of the day before bedtime. Verse 3 of the psalm says, “Know that the LORD does wonders for the faithful;/ when I call upon the LORD, he will hear me.” Similarly, verse 9 and part of verse 10 of Psalm 91, which shortly follows, declares, “Because you have made the LORD your refuge,/ And the most high your habitation,/There shall no evil happen to you…”

Because you have made the LORD your refuge, you are forgiven and you are safe. Not because you have never sinned, or haven’t committed certain sins, but solely because you have asked him for help. As difficult as we may find it to repent and return to God, as damning as we may think our sins are, God is on our side. He is the only one who can give us the helping hand we need to get through the pain and messiness of repentance—and in turn offer us the all-encompassing, never-ending forgiveness—that will bless us with the inner peace that we are all desperately looking for.

Eliza Brinkley is a new volunteer with A Movable Feast’s communications efforts. She is a member of Christ Church, Raleigh, where she is a youth leader. In 2015-2016, Eliza served with the Episcopal Church as a member of the Young Adult Service Corps, teaching ESL at two Episcopal schools in the North of Haiti.