In my life now, I often find myself “starting afresh”. Those little acts are wedged in any hour or day, all year round. They maybe interspersed in tiny moments, but for me, they could mean my very existence: my spiritual strength, restoration, and encouragement to carry on. They even restore peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, which to me are essential to living life.
I often have them mainly because of the life I’m living right now: lingering illness and physical difficulties.
One example is when I make the grave mistake of exhausting myself by talking too much. Sometimes when I’m feeling well, I get too excited to talk. I couldn’t seem to restrain myself until I realize I’m already winded. This always scares me because it often sends me frantically “recovering” for at least an hour, gasping for breath and going through excruciatingly difficult suffering in the process. I call it a gauntlet. During those “recoveries”, I always give myself a harsh scolding. Regret is a punishment in itself.
Regret because there might not be another tomorrow to do the things I was called to do. There might not be another opportunity to serve my family. To love.
Then as suffering gives way to relief (for me it’s almost heavenly), I am awash with new encouragement and inspiration to maintain a gentle and quiet spirit. When deliverance finally comes, I always know that it is another precious opportunity to be better than before, to walk on a ground higher than before. To treasure it all. Because it is all so fleeting.
That crossing over from suffering to recovery with a fresh inspiration and strong determination to be a better woman of God and walk worthy of Christ’s calling is a divine blessing drenched with grace.
But there are other crises we may find ourselves in, which are harder to “recover” from. I don’t know your specific experiences but below, I listed some of the sticky situations I usually find myself in, which send my emotions into a tailspin and my mind into confusion. They usually involve loss of self-control (you know, that fruit of the Holy Spirit).
When I resolved to truly love and honor my husband no matter what the circumstances, then find myself in the middle of a “word war” with him, earnestly contending and speaking out words I would later regret and receiving them in return, maybe twofold. The pain, confusion, regret, downright disappointment, and that loud, condemning voice of self-reproach could paralyze one from pulling oneself out of the quicksand and stepping into a broad, steady place.
In those times, I want to break down in deep anguish. I panic in fear of having offended God (I never want to do that). I fear His chastisement. I fear sliding back to deplorable sickness and suffering. So there were times that I echoed David’s desperate cries: “O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!” (Ps. 6:1). (Because of my long illness and suffering, I have become fearful of offending God with even the slightest mistake. I can’t help it that that has been its effect on me ).
When I lose my patience with my son when he disobeys me, doesn’t listen to me or do what I say, especially with his homework. I can see these – gentleness, patience, kindness – flying out of the window and yet, couldn’t stop it from happening.
When I haven’t been spiritually productive, minding things that don’t matter eternally, not hungering enough for God’s presence and touch, but soaking up myself with pleasures like a wholesome Hallmark movie or a period drama. And when I stay up so late reading or watching or just endlessly thinking – planning what to write, what to paint or where to go when I’m finally well and fully recovered (Felix often tells me that my brain is overused 😀 ) – then sleep wouldn’t come until wee hours of the morning which could bring mental agitation. I deeply regret those, too. A sign of my lack of self-discipline.
How do you stop things from spiralling and becoming hopelessly irredeemable?
Stop even though you think you’re not yet done. Stop even though you think “it’s too late anyway so what does it matter?” Stop because the Holy Spirit is telling you to. Stop because there’s grace when you do. Stop because you’ll be rewarded with your obedience, humility, and remorse.
Just stop. Stop what you’re doing. Stop talking. Stop fighting. Stop being angry, being impatient, being unkind, being ugly. JUST. STOP. Shut the mouth. Relish the instant quietness until it extends and expands into peacefulness, reaching and calming the nerves.
Pray at once. Right in the middle of the mess. Don’t let shame or self-condemnation stop you. Confess your faults and failures, your mistakes and ugliness. Tell God every detail: the remorse, the confusion, the hurt, the not-knowing-what-to-do-and-where-to-go-from-here. Beg for His endless mercies and forgiveness. Pray for light, clarity, and wisdom. Pray (and weep) until His peace descends and envelops your whole being and wraps itself around your heart and mind. Pray until you feel His acceptance like a warm embrace.
As soon as you get the chance, sing praises to Him. This will further banish the turmoil in your heart and mind. This will make you heal and recover better.
No, this is not only for those who receive the Lord Jesus and His salvation for the first time. It is also for us, His children already. Sometimes we feel so discouraged with ourselves, how we could be so slow learners, repeat offenders (even foolish!), that we don’t have the courage and confidence to face our Savior with our faults – again! But there is really nothing better to do (and nowhere to go) but that: present ourselves before Him, confessing our sins, acknowledging our mistakes and failures, and asking for more strength, light, and wisdom. The One who taught us to forgive seventy times seven, will He not do it Himself?
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Mat. 18:21-22)
And Apostle John encourages us:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
All these things – stopping, praying, praising, and starting anew – may come spontaneously, in between our moments. The inspiration and resolve to start afresh begins in the mind until it lights up the whole being. People around us need not know. We need not tell God about it (though He’s aware of the transformation happening within us; it’s His doing!). It is a quiet resolve, something that sustains us to the next moment or hour or day. A new burning desire to do it right. To do it God’s way.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing [we become weak; we break down; we unravel; we become undone], yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16, annotations mine)
Starting anew, then, is really a continuing process, whether we have stumbled or are walking steadily. Morning by morning, we are given that endless opportunity to do better, be better, be like the Lord Jesus Christ. Lamentations 3:22-23 is like a rock oozing with grace:
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Starting anew could happen any moment, any hour, any day all year round. Don’t be weary in doing it over and over again as the need arises. ‘Tis grace.
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Journey with Jesus,