Thursday, 8 October 2015

From despair to hope

Then Saul said, "I have sinned!... Surely I been a fool and gone badly wrong."  1 Samuel 26:21
Regrets... Do you have any? I think you would be either a very special person or a very foolish one if you were to say No.

We all have regrets, surely. Who doesn’t look back sometimes and wish they could turn the clock back? Some of our regrets may be relatively trivial - a silly word which damaged a relationship, an opportunity which we missed to do some good, a petty weakness which we have never quite mastered. Trivial perhaps, yet they have left a cloud hanging over us.

Other regrets are more serious. You took a disastrous career decision, or entered a completely wrong relationship, or got drawn into some kind of seriously bad behaviour. You did something that hurt someone badly.

It changed your life for ever - and now it is too late to put it right. You shake your head and echo the words of King Saul: "I have sinned!... I have been a fool and gone badly wrong".

I'll leave you to read for yourself what Saul had done to make him feel that way. For us the question has to be, "Is there anything I can do about my regrets?"

In essence we have two choices.

We can, if we let ourselves, slump into a kind of despair, even a really destructive bitterness. We can brood over our folly and stupidity. We can let it blight our lives.

Some people, tragically, do this - and allow their lives to be totally ruined by vain regrets. At worst it might lead to hatred and malice towards themselves or others. In extreme cases it can even lead to suicide. This can only be described as a victory for the devil, who loves nothing more than to wreak havoc on us.

But there is another way - what the Bible calls repentance. We come to God and hold nothing back. We admit our foolishness. We recognise that there is nothing we can now do. We humble ourselves.

Then, by an act of faith, we receive God's forgiveness. And we discover that along with that forgiveness comes something wonderful - the chance to start all over again.

God loves to forgive, even where we can’t forget. That doesn't mean he doesn't care about the wrong we have done and the hurt we have caused - he does, he cares very much, and he knows that a price has to be paid. But the good news is that that price has been paid - why else did Jesus die on the cross?

I wonder if anyone reading this is living with vain regrets? Can I remind you that our loving God is the master of the second chance, the new beginning? He always has a bright new future for those who are truly sorry.

Just think - Moses was guilty of murder, David committed adultery, Peter denied Jesus. But each went on to play a big part in God's purposes. So why shouldn't there be a bright new future for you too?

I don't think we ever forget the wrongs we have done and the mistakes we have made. And in fact it wouldn’t  be good if we did, especially if they caused pain to others. But repentance is all about that most wonderful gift of God - hope.

Go forward from today as a forgiven sinner, and let the hope of God fill your heart!

Dear Father, as I look back in my life there is indeed much I feel ashamed of. But thank you that still you love me and want only good for me. I pray now for any people I have hurt or damaged - if there is any kind of recompense I can make, then help me to make it. But thank you for a new start. Help me now to go forward, not always looking back, and to live from now on a life of Christlike holiness. Amen!

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