Starting Over With New Mercies

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, November 5, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 [NLT]).

The above Scripture is truly one of my favorites. In case you didn’t already know, a “lamentation” is an expression of sadness, sorrow, or grief. The prophet Jeremiah wrote a book of them to the Jews who were living in captivity to the Babylonians. In other words, their circumstances were pretty awful. Jeremiah is often known as “the weeping prophet,” and his Book of Lamentations is a whole lot of crying and complaining. At the same time, there is value in expressing our grief. It is an emotion that the Lord himself exhibits (Genesis 6:6, Luke 19:41, John 11:35) and we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). It’s only when we arrive at the point of recognizing our utter hopelessness in this world that we are able to look to something bigger, something beyond this world.

The verses quoted at the beginning of this post were the turning point for Jeremiah. He recognized that no matter how bad things got in captivity, God still loved his people and wanted to give them new mercies each morning. This didn’t always mean their circumstances would get better that day, but did mean that whatever didn’t kill them could make them stronger. Each day was a new opportunity to follow the Lord and it was completely unaffected by previous days. Plus, Jeremiah learned to see God’s mercy even in the fact that he allowed him to wake up each day. After all, God doesn’t owe tomorrow to any one of us!

Jeremiah had made some enemies as a prophet speaking God’s Word boldly to people who didn’t want to hear it. If you read the rest of Lamentations, you see that he recognized that he and his people were suffering because of their own sins and not because God for some reason just didn’t like them. He even realized that it would’ve gotten worse had God not intervened. “O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life” (Lamentations 3:58 [NIV]). Ultimately, Jeremiah learned and taught that God’s new mercies render the past irrelevant, including BOTH the sins committed against us and the ones we commit.

I had a unique opportunity in March of this year to try to help someone break away from her past. Many of you know that I work as an investigator for Child Protective Services. In my job, there are times I have to remove a child from his or her parents’ care basically at birth in order to protect him or her through the most vulnerable time. But, the goal is almost never to keep the child away from the biological parents. Even after we remove a child from the unsafe situation, the goal is reunification with the parents if the parents are willing and able to provide a safe environment. Unfortunately, sometimes the decision to remove a child is based solely on a person’s past.

The young mother I am talking about gave birth to her sixth child in March. ALL FIVE of her previous children had been removed from her custody in years past because of her drug addictions, violent relationships, and a number of other destructive choices. To make matters worse, she had not cooperated with us or any other agency and never got those children back. When a woman has had that many children permanently taken away from her, my agency can take a child from the hospital at birth based solely on her past. Whether I agreed with it or not, that was the decision made in March. Even though she had tested negative for drugs all through her pregnancy and the child was negative for drugs, my supervisors felt we needed to make sure she had her life in order and would be able to care for the child when it is time to bring her home. When I broke the news to the mother and she was devastated, I simply told her, “This is not about the present, it’s about your past. But your past does not have to define you. If you take the necessary steps, you can show everyone that you have changed and your daughter will belong back with you.” From that day forward, the woman and her boyfriend did everything I asked of them and more. They were respectful, cooperative, and motivated in a way we had never seen this mother act before. Three months after the initial removal, the agency felt comfortable enough that the child would be safe that we returned her to her biological parents in their home.

I share this story to show that a woman who had a past as bad as any that I see in my job made a decision to break away from it. Having a partner and family members who were supportive rather than abusive, as those in her past were, made a huge difference. However, I walked away from that situation knowing that while the woman had made some changes with family support and some willpower, the ONLY thing that would not fail her and could keep her from reverting back to her past habits when everything else falls apart would be a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again”. In other words, the only way we can remain positive and have hope when all else fails is if we are re-born. I think the idea of being born again has gotten watered down in the church today. Many Christians claim they are born again, but not much has changed from their past life to now. Being born again means literally STARTING OVER. When you are born from your mother’s womb, you have no previous experience to draw from. When you are born again through the Holy Spirit, it’s like waking up in the morning with a fresh slate. Whatever was before that is now defeated! Paul lists a bunch of people who “won’t inherit the kingdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. But in the next verse, he says, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). In other words, live according to the change God has done in you and not according to the past.

As Christians, we love to talk about how God saved us from the penalty of our sins. Yet, when it comes to sins committed against us, we love to hold grudges. This cannot be! When God separates you from your past, it also includes everything done TO you. Please understand I am not trivializing anything that you have been through or are going through right now. Some of you have had sins committed against you that I can’t even imagine. But even so, I want to challenge you to see how God has washed and sanctified you even from those things. When we accept that Jesus saved us and gave us NEW life, we can no longer claim the wrongs committed against us as a crutch, no matter how severe they may be. Our sins are wiped away, but so is the sting of death and sin in our lives when God has given us victory over all of it (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). I encourage you to walk in this freedom today. Break away from your past and start over with the new mercies that God gives you each day that he lets you wake up.