What do you do when you’ve had a really bad day? I’m not talking about a bad day when you’ve experience all kinds of hassles and problems that are not necessarily of your own making. I’m talking about those bad days when you’ve really messed up:
When you’ve said or done something that you really regret;
When you’ve fallen into that thing that makes you ashamed;
Or when you’ve missed an opportunity because you lacked the courage or wisdom to act.
Bad days are part of life. The question is: what do we do about them– especially when we’ve created our own problems??
New Year’s Day is when the world gets a powerful hint of grace. It’s one of the most vivid experiences of God’s “common grace.” Common grace is a theological term for God’s continuing mercy extending to all creatures, as described by Jesus in Matthew 5:45-46:
…For [the Father] gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
In this case, on the first day of a new year, those who have minimal belief in God get a sense of what Jesus promises in faith, hope, grace and love. It’s a fresh start. New Year’s Day is typically the season when we try to put frustrations and failures behind us so we can move forward in positive, constructive—and dare I say redemptive—directions. We have hope that we can make the coming days different. There’s a sense of wiping the slate clean. What a great celebration! The problem is January 2 and 3 and 4…
Resolutions are rarely sustainable unless something happens in the heart.
Our hearts are changed when we accept by faith God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus took our sin upon himself as the ultimate expression of grace. He gives us that fresh start of being right with God, being released from regret and shame, and entering into the freedom God intends for us.
Take heart in this: Our sin spoils our fellowship with God, but it does not make God love us less.
The wonder of God’s grace is that it lasts, and it lasts, and it lasts. One of the most encouraging passages of Scripture that testifies to God’s continuing mercy and forgiveness is Lamentations 3:22-23,
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness (New International Version NIV).
The Book of Lamentations, attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, is a compilation of five prayers in the form of “dirge poetry” or “funeral songs” written during Judah’s judgment and exile. Even in the midst of God’s people experiencing the consequences of their sin and rebellion, Jeremiah proclaimed and celebrated the blessings of God’s mercy and faithfulness. The time of consequences will not last. God’s mercy triumphs.
This verse inspired the well-known hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960). Chisholm was born in Franklin, Kentucky in a log cabin and became a teacher at age sixteen. He had a powerful to conversion to Christ at age twenty-seven during a revival. He served as a Methodist minister for one year before resigning due to poor health. In 1909 Chisholm began his career as a life insurance agent. In 1923, at age fifty-seven, Chisholm wrote this popular hymn.
This hymn describes God’s faithfulness being demonstrated in God’s character, (“There is no shadow of turning (or change) with thee…), in God’s creation, seen in the consistency of nature (“Summer and winter…”), and, ultimately, in God’s redemption, described in the third stanza which says,
Pardon for Sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
We cling to God’s faithfulness when it appears God has let us down– and especially when we have let God down.
If God’s mercies are present at times of our unfaithfulness, how much more will they be present when we recognize our failure and truly seek the Lord in humility and brokenness?!
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17 NIV).
When you’ve had a really bad day—do what we are called to do every other day: Trust God’s faithfulness not your own performance.