Today, as I type this, it’s December 30, 2013. The Internet is currently littered with articles and blog posts recounting the highlights and “worst of …” events of the past year. It’s a time for reflection and looking forward. Depending on your worldview, the future may look bleak, or so bright you gotta’ wear shades. But, one theme that seems to ring loudly at the end of each calendar year is the tendency to give voice to our regrets. Being human, it’s hard to ruminate over our lives without feeling the pangs of our fallen condition and the reverberations of our mistakes.
So, as we stare 2014 in the face, please allow me to offer a bit of Christian perspective.
I don’t know where the quote originated, but I like the phrase, “No one will ever get well until they give up their dream of having a perfect past.” Folk are often haunted by their past. We live with the current results of the choices and behaviors of our bygone days and there’s not a person alive who wouldn’t like to go back and fix something they messed up. But it’s unchangeable. It’s set in stone and remains exactly what it is. No amount of grieving or regretting can alter what has already occurred.
So, what should we do? Too often people think that they can atone for their past mistakes by feeling really bad about them. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t deserve to be happy because of errant decisions they made at some point in the past. But, is that even effective? Obviously not. No amount of feeling lousy on their part can change the reality of what has already been.
The simple reality is that we cannot fix ourselves. It is our intrinsic inability that got us into this mess in the first place. Only unmitigated ego assumes that a broken person can fix his own broken condition. And that realization, despite being a tad frightening, is a very good place to be. Because this is where Christianity shines most brightly.
Christianity begins with the realization that we are incapable of saving ourselves from ourselves. After all, if we cannot solve our own problem, then the solution must exist somewhere outside of ourselves. That’s the very essence of what repentance is. It is turning from our way of thinking and behaving, taking sides with God against ourselves, and admitting our utter dependence on Him.
But, equally and wonderfully, Christianity also offers the only full and complete cure for our lousy histories: a clean slate. The salvation that Christ accomplished not only paid our sin debt, it cast our history of rebellion and stupidity “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12)
Or, as Micah put it —
“Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.” (Mic. 7:18-19)
Or, as the writer of Hebrews states —
“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:12)
So, here’s my point (and I do have one). Why are you making yourself sick by hanging onto the things that God has forgotten? Why are you punishing yourself over things that Christ has already been punished for? Why are you clinging to your hurtful past when it has been effectively erased, removed, and atoned for?
In Christ, we are new creatures. We have experienced a new birth, from above. Old things are passed away. (2Cor. 5:17) So, it’s okay to be happy. In fact, it’s okay to be joyous. Celebrate the fact that, despite your efforts to condemn yourself, God’s plan and design kept you from your self-destruction and saved you from His judgment. And that’s a pretty good reason to be happy and grateful.
You see, the answer to everything that’s wrong with us does not reside within our flesh, our strength, our wills, our intelligence, or our abilities. The answer is Christ and Him alone. But, He’s a complete answer, a fully-effective cure, and a sufficient present to erase our past.
So, here comes 2014. Bring it on. May the new year be full of blessings and good news. But, if it’s not, it’s good to know that we are in the hands of a sovereign who does everything for His greatest glory and our greatest good. And that means, despite whatever circumstances may come, we will end up exactly where He has determined to take us … safe, sound, whole, forgiven, and well.
I’ll see you in the new year.