Have you ever wanted to start over?
Life is hard and sometimes ugly. We mess up and get messed up. Painful circumstances haunt our joy and bad choices laugh in our face. Sometimes we long to just start over.
I think that’s why there’s so much hype around New Year’s Day. There’s something about a brand new year that motivates even the laziest, most hopeless, and unmotivated parts of us, isn’t there? We wake up on January 1st, believing we can suddenly conquer every bad habit and erase every painful consequence. It’s a brand new year, so surely everything in life is fresh, new, and we get a do-over, right?
To be honest, it cracks me up that we think like this. What on earth does the calendar have to do with being able to erase laziness, poor eating, bad exercise habits, messy housekeeping, and wretched money management (to name a few)? And what about the hard things in our life? Is there something we can do to wake up no longer divorced? Cancer-free? Happy about our job? With respectful and obedient children?
The promise of being able to start over again is powerful, but you and I both know that January 1st solves nothing. It’s just another day and most people will find themselves drowning their sorrows in a bowl of queso again by Super bowl Sunday. Their treadmills, healthy food stash, and “words of the year” will be lost in the shuffle and life will keep moving until the next New Year’s celebration.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few weeks, wondering why we struggle so much to make changes, and it occurred to me that perhaps we are looking for the wrong thing. Maybe we don’t even want to start over?
I keep thinking about a question my daughter asked me. “Mom, if you had it to do over again, would you have even married Dad?”
It’s one of those questions that makes it hard to breathe as the words deliver a crushing blow to the cracks of your heart. But it’s fair and I want her thinking, so I must press in to the answer. Would I do it again? Can I really start over? Can I really even hope that I had never met him, knowing that I’d lose 4 amazing children, over a decade of precious memories with them, and an inexpressibly deeper relationship with God?
And what about the other painful experiences in my life (and yours)?
If we had known that the friendship would end, would we have never loved that person to begin with?
If we had known the baby would die, would we refuse to even get pregnant?
Of course, the question is a moot point. We can’t start over in life even if we wanted to. We can’t go back and un-marry anyone. We can’t erase a cancer diagnosis. People can’t un-abort babies or un-drink before they get behind the wheel.
But that’s not really the question. The question is, would we really want to?
I say no. I don’t want to start over again. Oh sure, I can do without the brokenness, the scarlet letter “D” I wear on my chest, and the loneliness that sometimes threatens to eat me alive. But start over? No thanks. I can’t imagine going back to the me I was back then and I certainly have no desire to “re-learn” these lessons.
I think Job probably felt this way, too. It was only through his suffering that Job saw God with his own eyes (Job 42:5); before that he had only “heard” of God. This probably seems like an odd statement to make, but I feel like I can completely relate. I don’t want to go back to the place in life where I had just “heard” of God either. I want to stay here where I KNOW Him personally and can see Him working in my life with my own eyes.
The hard things in life are used by God to change us. Whether it’s something we choose or something we endure, the Bible promises that God works all of these things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Divorce. Cancer. Brokenness. Health struggles. Addictions. Job trouble. God uses them all.
Trust me, I know it’s hard to wrestle with this truth knowing that things could be different than the way they ended up. But think of all we’d miss in life if nothing ever hurt. Think of all the lessons and tender moments we’d never have experienced.
Maybe instead of starting over what we really long for is the blessing of new mercies every morning.
Whether it’s a weight issue, an addiction, the struggle with a sin that won’t let go, or a circumstance out of your control, what we really need is God’s mercies afresh over us EVERY single morning (Lam 3:22).
Instead of looking at the hard things in life with contempt, we can choose to let God use the struggles to grant us the blessings of new mercies every morning.
And trust me, I’d much rather see every moment as a new chance to walk humbly with God, basking in the lessons He has knit in my heart through each and every hard thing I’ve faced. I’d rather face each new day “starting fresh” with the wisdom I’ve gained only through the hard things God has allowed in my life than to go back to the place where I had none of that.
The Bible tells us that Job was a godly man. He was righteous, blameless, and upright. Yet through his struggle and suffering He came to see God in a real and personal way. Don’t you think he woke up every day after that with a totally different view on life?
This is what I want for my life and for yours. Every moment is another chance to use what God has taught us and walk faithfully in the light. God’s mercies are new EVERY single morning (Lam 3:22). You know what that means? We can love, give of ourselves, raise families (and so much more) starting every single day with the grace, mercy, and lovingkindness we need to live a life worthy of our calling. We can learn, grow, stretch, and make things right EVERY single moment.
So rather than ask the question, “Would I do it again?” I preferred to bask in the grace and mercy of the Lord… so that tomorrow when I wake up I can take each tiny lesson knitted on my heart and walk forward with expectant hope. Because every day is new. And every day I have the choice to use what God has taught me to make my life even better than the day before.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Just that it’s worth it.
No one wakes up one day and hopes that this will be the day their child is diagnosed with cancer or that their marriage falls apart. No one hopes for an auto immune disease or wishes their son would die in a fatal accident.
But we all want the kind of faith that whispers hope into the deepest darkness. We all want to know God and trust Him with our hardest places through the mercy and grace He gives us each day. May we find ourselves like Job, clinging to not just the “hearing” of God, but walking confidently in the seeing of Him working personally in us… even on days when we think we’d rather start over.
Reclaiming your life from the grip of circumstances
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