I recently came across a video tape (yes, an actual VHS tape) of our oldest son sitting in a highchair conflicted over the beets on his tray, and I was instantly transported back 20 years ago.

I so much wanted to crawl through that screen and do things differently.  Better.  With the bit of wisdom I’ve picked up in the years since.

As the lyric goes, I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger..

My kids stood there watching with me and they commented that even my voice is different now.  Granted, I’m not talking to three year olds anymore, but still.  I’ve changed and I could look back and see my mistakes so clearly.  And it grieved me. 

It seems the older and closer I get to the end of my life, the more I can look back at decisions I’ve made and my heart breaks with disappointment.  If I’m not careful, I can get stuck in the mud of regret.  

The Israelites almost did that very thing.

The walls of Jerusalem had been torn down and the city lay burned to the humiliation of the Israelites for over 100 years until God called Nehemiah and His people to rebuild the city.  They worked non-stop for months rebuilding while being armed and ready for enemy attacks. 

It had been a long haul, but God had restored them. 

The Israelites gathered and stood while Ezra, the priest, read the Word of God from daybreak until noon.  As they heard the Truth, they became overwhelmed with conviction. 

God’s Word will do that. 

Standing in the holiness of God in the reading of the Word they felt the depths of their sin.  They mourned from the pit of their souls and they wept. 

But the people were told..

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

The past was gone and God had forgiven them.  He had restored their city and their people and now was a time for rejoicing! 

God never intends for us to carry around regret. He so desires rivers of living water to flow through us, not for us to stand in a quagmire of regret.  That’ll only slow down our journey, weaken our faith and our testimony.

The word strength in this verse means “a fortified place; a defence, a fortress, a rock.”

The enemy had continually tried to pull the people away from God’s work of rebuilding through taunts, lies and deception.  But they were unsuccessful because Nehemiah kept his focus, and the people’s, on the Lord and the work they were called to do.

Just as a wolf will attack a sheep that is injured or sick, God’s enemy (and ours) will seek out someone who is spiritually weakened.  It’s easy prey.

Living in a state of grief over past sins weakens us.  Refusing to forgive ourselves cripples our spirit.

There is a time for grieving over our sin, but that grief should take us directly to the feet of Jesus in repentance. 

And when we do, God’s forgiveness is immediate.  His grace gives us the freedom to let it go, accept the joy He gives and move on.  And that brings us His strength.  We’re free to step out of the quagmire and onto the Rock. 

We join with the Lord and He becomes our fortress, our defence against attacks from the enemy.  Our faith grows stronger and our testimony brings Him glory.

The past is gone and God’s mercies are new every morning. 

My feet may be a little muddy, but I’m stepping out, washing them in the river and standing on the Rock.

How about you?

 

 

Lord Jesus, help us to repent, forgive ourselves, and accept the joy we have in You!”

 

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