There are times in many people’s lives when something is said or done that sets for them a course of pain and regret. Perhaps looking back on your life, you see that you have somehow lost your way and are now somewhere in a valley of heartache, a million miles away from where you always dreamed you’d be. Maybe you wonder how you got into the place you are and have sadly resigned yourself to a fate of hopelessness. It could be that there are images engraved in your memory with etchings of sorrow so deep that you shy from remembering, becoming numb to life and the world around you.
If so, you’re definitely not alone. Mistakes in the past often reap a harvest of bitterness and pain. Materially or physically or even socially, things may be so utterly out of hand or are so rapidly heading in the wrong direction that despair has crept into our hearts like a slow, cold poison.
It sometimes appears on the surface that things seem all right, but when one assesses his or her heart’s condition, he or she can discern that things aren’t really so okay after all. As a result, a sense of being trapped takes hold, making one a prisoner of regret, shame, or pride. Relationships have been somehow spoilt and aren’t what they should be and joy stubbornly eludes one’s grasp.
What is one to do then when it seems that there isn’t any going back? Circumstantially speaking, it is true that when once we set in motion a series of events that we must “face the music” so to speak, harvesting the consequences of past decisions, attitudes, or actions. But it is not true that while we have breath on earth that we can so destroy the bridge of relationship with God that we cannot get back to Him!
First consider that no one at all can approach holy God deservedly. The result of our sin and the price to be paid was the giving of a life… which our God accomplished in the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, thinking that you have ongoing access to the Father because of YOUR faithfulness is falling short of the full effect of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Your faithfulness does not bridge your relationship with God. It is the faithfulness of God that opened the bridge in the first place and keeps it open for you.
Your faithfulness simply produces the happy fruit of allowing your heart and life to be filled with the good things of God: joy, peace, purpose, victory, courage, and love. It is because of grace that you can return in repentance and sweet fellowship over and over again with the Lord of glory!
Consider how God’s people, through the ages, wrestled with this time and time again. Hear a prayer of a servant of God interceding for God’s people: “You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I slapped my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” (Jeremiah 31:18b-19 ESV).
And listen to the Lord’s reply to this prayer: “Is not Ephraim My dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore My heart yearns for Him; I have great compassion for him” (Jeremiah 31:20 NIV).
So if you feel like you’ve wandered far away from God, remember that it is grace through faith only by which you were saved. Recall to your mind that the way is still open to you even if you’ve departed from the path of walking daily with Him.
“Set up road markers for yourself. Make yourself guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return… return…. How long will you waver?” (from Jeremiah 31:21-22b ESV).
When we are called to walk with God, He calls us in spite of all our imperfections and waywardness in order to demonstrate His perfection: His perfect salvation and His perfectly enduring grace that “keeps us” in His love. Know that He knew what He was getting into when He called you to be His child. So if your feet have wandered away, the way back isn’t closed to you after all. You’ll enjoy, like the Prodigal Son, a reuniting that, while you don’t deserve it, awaits you nonetheless (see Luke 15:11-31). To be once again “caught up in the arms” of your loving heavenly Father, you simply have to turn your feet back towards home.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 21 ½ years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.