Ending the night last night in the bathtub, praise God, I realized that I have been really terrible at taking moments to breathe, to appreciate the silence, and allow God time. So, this afternoon I am pushing off the things that need doing and spending some time in the word. I am still working on my study at Shereadstruth about Nehemiah (which I have fallen way behind in... they are already 5 or 6 days in on the next study, oops) And today I found in it, some words that I so often need to be reminded of.
At this point in Nehemiah, the people finished building the wall and were getting settled inside the city. From morning to midday they stood at the gate as Ezra read the Book of the Law. And as the people listened, they wept. This is not the response Nehemiah and the teachers wanted the people to have, so he said to them, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh. 8:10) The people were so focused on how they messed up, how they disobeyed the Lord that they could not see the whole picture- they couldn't see the joyous truth found in His forgiveness and grace. Nehemiah wanted to help the people see that their response to the Word was not to be an inward focus with weeping over the ways they screwed up, but to be one of praise, of worship for how good the Lord is. He wanted them to rejoice for the goodness and forgiveness that is found in Him.
This is a lesson that I need to be schooled on over and over again. When I do something that I know is wrong, or stupid, or mean, or disobedient to how the Lord wants me to be, I have a terrible time getting over it. For way too long, I am like the people who hear the Word and just weep. Instead of seeking forgiveness, finding freedom in His grace, and letting it go as a lesson learned, I apparently prefer to hunker down in the sadness and shame of my sin and just sit there. I relive the moment by rehashing it over and over in my mind thinking about what I did, what I could have done differently, and basically shaming myself over and over again. I don't know why I have such a hard time with this, or why I am so hard on myself but it is definitely a big struggle for me to let go of mistakes I've made. I am so thankful that the truth of the Lord is not about shame and discipline, but instead it is about forgiveness, grace, and transformation. What I need to work on is grasping that- and letting the truth permeate my being, and lead me to joy.
I like how Matthew Henry encourages this in his commentary where he says, "“Even sorrow for sin must not hinder our joy in God, but rather lead us to it… when they understood, they rejoiced.” (emphasis added) What a great way of looking at it. It's important to have some sorrow over our sin, in fact I think it's necessary, because it shows we realize we've done wrong... but if it starts to hinder our joy in God, then it's gone too far. I don't want to dwell in the sadness of my sins anymore- I want to repent and be led to joy in Him!
Amanda Williams, author over at Shereadstruth says it well as she challenges us by saying, "Sisters, let us seek to understand the fullness of the Gospel today. Let us remember our great God, recognize our sin and take hold of His complete forgiveness. And let us rejoice."
Boom. Amen to that.