I learned a new definition for integrity the day my dad took me to my aunt’s property to chop up a fallen tree. She was willing to let me have the wood for free, if my dad and I would cut it up. He taught me how to maneuver her small but noisy chain saw to neatly slice through the log. I felt so empowered!

We worked from both ends, cutting the log into eighteen-inch chunks. Then we turned each section on end and he explained what to do. “See this weakness here?” he said, pointing to a small break in the core. “Place the wedge there, then hit it with the sledgehammer.” I did, and it worked!

I split each round in two, and my dad chopped those pieces into firewood. He seemed to be doing more of the work, so I asked, “Do you want me to split each round more than once?”

“No.” He paused to straighten his back. “Once you’ve compromised the integrity of the wood, it’s not hard to break the rest of it down.” I had to pause and think about that. The only definition I knew for integrity had to do with being true to your word. But this obviously referred to the wholeness of an object. I immediately saw spiritual implications!

Satan looks for our weak spots to place his wedge, and begins to work—usually with subtle pressure instead of a sledgehammer. So subtle we may not even notice it at first. He will keep at us until we break. Once we’ve given in to one temptation, it’s not hard for Satan to break us down completely.

If we give in, and our integrity is compromised in one area, it will be much easier to succumb to temptations of all kinds–the next time, and the next, until our entire life is in pieces. That first fracture in our integrity could take us down a road we never planned to travel.

I’m so glad God is in the business of restoring the integrity (wholeness) of broken lives. He can rebuild our splintered reputations, broken relationships, and hearts shredded by lies. He then helps us restore our reputation into one of honesty and commitment to what is right.

King David was plagued by his enemies and feared for his life. Even so, his greatest fear was that he would disgrace God. He committed some shocking sins in his lifetime—adultery, murder, and lies to cover them up. But when confronted with his sins, he completely turned away from them. This restored his relationship with God, who declared he was a man after His own heart, and restored his reputation with his people. God made him whole and hopeful.

David wrote: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you” (Psalm 25:16-21, emphasis mine). We have hope in Jesus Christ.

Warren Wiersbe said, “To lose hope is to surrender the future to the enemy, and that only destroys the meaning of the present.” We have no future without hope. And the only way to enjoy the present is to give it fully to God.

Losing our integrity doesn’t happen all at once, but by one bad choice after another. This is a powerful song on integrity by Casting Crowns. “Slow Fade.”