It’s hard to overcome the guilt for past mistakes when we still have to see the people that we’ve hurt. When they haven’t overcome the past. Their very presence is a constant, painful reminder of wrongs that haven’t been righted. That can’t be. We can’t go back with an eraser and make it all go away. Memories haunt, bitterness clings, depression lurks.
We can’t go back and erase what’s written on yesterday’s pages, but we can write something new today.
You’re probably thinking Well, duh. Of course that’s what you have to do. But if you think that, maybe it’s because you’ve never ruined someone’s life before. To look at those people, and know they are the way they are because of you–that’s super hard to digest.
Here’s what I’m learning in the midst of my struggles–about how other people are, how God is, and how I am. Maybe I’m not 100% accurate in every single observation, but I think my experiences are teaching me to be more realistic than ever before.
Don’t wait for other people to forgive you. God has already done that, and He doesn’t need their permission. Of course it’s good to seek forgiveness from others, to apologize for what we’ve done wrong, if we have the chance. But what if they don’t? Or what if they say they do, but their actions prove the opposite? We can’t wait our whole lives for them to get over the past. That’s why we have to be the ones to take that first step in unloosing ourselves from previous failures and hurts, and hope that they’ll do the same.
We don’t need them to approve us, love us, or release us. No human being is completely capable of giving our souls what they need; only God is. If God has said that He will forgive us when we confess our sins, then we need to trust that our debt has been forgiven, no matter how many times the offended party tries to make us feel guilty. He has released us from the burden of the past to live a new life in Him, and they have no right to take that away from us.
Don’t allow yourself to sink down into depression, discouragement, and despair; keep looking ahead to the goal, and go after it with enthusiasm. During childbirth, if you don’t keep focused on the goal of having a baby, it’s easy to become trapped in the intense emotions. Feeling sick, experiencing a lot of internal pressure and stretching, enduring the pain and fatigue, wondering if the process will ever end…all contribute toward wanting to give up. But isn’t that silly? You can’t give up when you’re having a baby! No way–you have to get that baby out! I’ve always found that the best way to achieve the end goal was to focus on the short-term goal of getting through each contraction as relaxed as I could be. Instead of fighting against my circumstances, I accepted them and worked with them.
And so it must be with life in general. The end goal is eternity with Jesus in heaven. Everything we’re doing here and now on earth is contributing toward our future assignments, positions, and rewards in heaven. But that goal seems rather far off to us at the moment. It helps to remind ourselves of that goal while focusing our attention on the short-term goal of doing the best with the day we’ve been given. Each day leads up to eternity with God, like a pearl on a string. When our earthly lives are over, the necklace will be complete.
God uses our bad days along with our good days in His work. Maybe the bad days help make the good days even better. That’s not to say we couldn’t be a really good work of art without the bad days; simply that God uses all things for our good, if we love Him.
We must not allow ourselves to get stuck in the “I can’t do this!” mentality! Just as that sort of thinking never helps one bit during childbirth, it won’t help us move forward in the rest of life, either. The baby needs to be born. In other words: Our purpose needs to be fulfilled, because God hasn’t given up on us even when others have, or when we’re tempted to give up on ourselves.
Don’t think that your failures disqualify you from serving God. Instead, think of them as being valuable assets. This goes against the direction our emotions want to tug us when we’re recovering from some awful sin committed in the past. Our inclination is to think we’ve sinned so bad there’s no future for us in God’s “employment.” We don’t contribute to His agenda, and He’s going to discard us, we think. But if we think that way, we don’t know the one we serve! God fixes broken stuff; He doesn’t just put pieces of junk together that were previously falling apart and make them sort of work–He makes something new and even better! To Him, we’re not useless: we’re just starting to become more useful.
I have to admit, this has been very hard for me to accept. In theory, of course, I’ve always known it to be true. But accepting it practically and whole-heartedly has been much more difficult. How can my brokenness be used for good in other people’s lives? Won’t they just shake their heads and dismiss me as a pathetic hypocrite? Sure, I can show them what not to do, but can I inspire them in what they should do? How can I, after messing up so badly myself?
We underestimate ourselves. Our testimony isn’t merely a story of “how Jesus saved me from my sins before I became a Christian.” I don’t have that testimony, because as far as I can remember, I’ve always been a believer, from the time I was a little girl! Other people have that testimony to share with others, but not me. Who wants to listen to “Yeah, I totally messed up even though I was a believer and my parents homeschooled me and took me to church and youth group.” I’m wondering if maybe– a lot of people! We don’t need only the stories of how Jesus saves sinners who were previously unbelievers; we also need stories of how Jesus forgives, is patient with, and teaches those of us who already are believers. No, we’re not perfect. “Perfect” is a mirage. “Perfect” will only happen in heaven. But, we are changing! We’re learning, we’re becoming wiser, we’re growing.
That process of transformation is what our lives here are all about. The end goal of perfection and glorification in heaven will come about in God’s timing, and we should keep that destination in sight. But for now, our lives are more about finding: finding the heart of God beating for sinners; finding the courage to go on after discouraging failures; finding the compassion for others that makes human relationships not only possible, but beautiful. But especially, finding that faith in God is what fuels this trip, and that without it, we’d truly be stuck. Salvation isn’t just a destination. It is, but it’s also an experience in which God extends His hand of help to us time and time again when all our sins threaten to overturn us and suck us down into the depths. It’s having faith, not just for our eternal security, but for the ability to triumph with God’s help in the everyday.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.