Mistakes & Mercies

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”   Isa. 43:18-19

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good: my joints weren’t as stiff as over the last few days, and I was somewhat rested. During my morning stretches, I felt led to thank God for His “new mercies”, so that I could really start the day fresh. Well, before I finished flexing my feet, I realized that I’d forgotten a family member’s birthday. Not by just a day or so, either.

A cold splash of embarrassment hit, followed quickly by shame, a familiar one-two punch for me. Then it wasn’t long before other goof ups I’d committed paraded in front of me. And I’m not sure which was worse – how I judged myself, or the judgement I assumed others have had about me.

If someone else were to share a struggle like this with me, I’d probably say something like: “Even if you did make a mistake, you’re being awfully hard on yourself. Beating yourself up isn’t going to change anything.  Make it right as best you can, then let it go.”

That sounds like pretty good advice. So why is it so hard for me to follow? Part of the reason may be low self esteem, or looking for worth in what i do. But I think another part of it is a lack of faith.

In many scripture passages, I can find God’s promises about this very type of situation:

  • He forgives our sins

he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…” 1Jn 1:9

  • He removes our sins

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps 103:12  

  • He forgets our sins

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”      Is 43:25
It seems like God has a lot more mercy on me than I’ve had on myself. And as His child, I need to concentrate more on what He says than how I feel. Yes, I’ll send a card and maybe even make a  call to express belated birthday greetings. But then it’s time to move on to those new things He’s doing!

God’s Handiwork

Do you know how special you are? I hope so. You are unique, a one-of-a-kind creation. And you were put here on purpose – there’s nothing accidental about you. You were made to be exactly who you are.

God said to this to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I set you apart…” Wow. And if you think that only goes for Jeremiah, listen to what Paul wrote about all of us in Ephesians:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Paul understood the amazing truth that God designed him, you, me, everyone, by His own hand – individually and intentionally. And he not only accepted it, but embraced it.

That can be hard to do, though, can’t it? Most of us have gotten the message somewhere along the way that we’re not very special at all. Whether someone told us that directly or we’ve spent years comparing ourselves to other people, we can end up feeling that “different” equals “less than.”

Well, that is a lie. And I’ve seen too many wonderful, incredibly valuable people buy into it. I spent years doing the same thing, and I know the pain it causes: low self esteem, discouragement and even depression.

I think Jeremiah and Paul might have struggled with this, too. And how did God answer them? With reassurance and encouragement that they were crafted by His hand, and that He delighted in His work!

If you’re ever unsure about your value, these verses can start to change your attitude. Try lifting them up as prayers, and soon you’ll feel better about being exactly who you are – a beautiful example of God’s handiwork.

 

 

The Answer To Self Condemnation

As a young Christian, I dealt with a lot of guilty feelings. Accepting Jesus when I was 30 years old meant I entered my new life having made a lot of mistakes and bad choices. And each one left a sense of remorse behind, like a layer of sticky residue.

I’d only been to church a few times over the years, and had never read the Bible. Once I got settled into a congregation, I began to be tutored and discipled. And that’s where my struggle with guilt really kicked in.

You see, up until then I’d “gotten away” with sinning. I might have felt bad about hurting someone, or regret that I’d gotten myself into a bad situation. But I’d find all sorts of ways to avoid and ignore facing my responsibility head-on. The result was temporary relief, followed by a lingering feeling of “wrongness”.

The more I started to learn about God, the worse I felt about me. All I could see was how far I’d fallen short of His commands. The memory of every faulty thing I’d done came to haunt me, each a reminder of how hopeless I was. But I wasn’t hopeless – I was being misled.

The truth is that guilt can serve a very useful purpose. God uses it as a tool to help me realize when I’ve sinned. But I always took “good guilt” to the next step, into self-condemnation. And that is a favorite tool the enemy uses to discourage us.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”                          Romans 8:1

I think Paul understood the temptation to fall into self-condemnation. Earlier in Romans chapter 7, he lays out the ongoing battle we all face with our sinful nature. He ends up exclaiming “What a wretched man I am!” But Paul doesn’t stay there. He goes on to give us the way out – “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ…”

Do you ever feel weighed down by guilt? Go to God. When you confess your sins, He not only forgives them, but removes them from you. Because of what Jesus’ death on the cross, our sins are gone, separated from you forever. And when He’s done, you are clean – no sticky residue left behind!