I want to offer some encouragement. But first, it has recently been brought to my attention what encouragement really is. In one dictionary, "to encourage is to give active help or to raise confidence to the point where one dares to do what is difficult." We have lost that definition. I think oftentimes we mistake flattery for encouragement and the Bible speaks against flattery. The definition of flattery is "excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one's own interests."
Proverbs 29:5 says, "A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet."
Psalm 5:9 says, "For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue."
That is pretty strong language. So, we are not called to offer each other meaningless fluff in order to manipulate ourselves into good standing or just say what people want to hear. We are called to literally place courage in each other to do difficult things.
God has always been in the business of restoration and reconciliation. He desires relationship with us and that is why we were created.
But things got screwed up starting way back in the garden of Eden. Ever since then, God has been patient with us, slowly drawing us to himself to restore us to a right relationship. We inherited a sin nature from our ultimate parents, Adam and Eve. There is no one who comes from the womb loving God. We are born basically hating God and He begins the work of restoring us to that right relationship.
As we come to realize this more and more, we are sometimes crippled by shame due to our pasts. This is where we get to the meat. God is bigger than my past and your past, no matter what is contains. I have personally been wrestling lately against feeling hopeless and eternally chained to my past.
We have to understand that the whole point of this life is glorifying God and living in appreciation because God wants us despite our pasts. He rescued us while we were still sinners. He did not wait for us to clean up our act. My favorite verse lately has been Joel 2:25.
God says, "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you."
God can restore anything. By ourselves, it is true that we are worthless and lost in sin. But when we are washed in the blood of Christ, God can look at us and call us beautiful.
To fully benefit from this, we must come to terms with the last part of that verse: "...My great army which I sent among you." You see, what God is restoring is destruction that He Himself sent. That army was one sent by God because His people were disobeying Him. So what was the point of that process? When we are disobedient, God disciplines us because that is what a loving Father should do.
After God disciplines us, he waits for us to be brokenhearted over our sin and repent. Repent means to turn away from sin or change our mind about our sin.
Psalm 51:17 says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--These, O God, You will not despise."
So the restoration comes when we are brokenhearted over our sin and have a heart that desires to change. Salvation comes by the grace of God through faith. Restoration comes through a broken heart. The purpose of our lives is the good works God has planned for us in order to glorify Himself.
Ephesians 2:8-10 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
God saves us by no merit of our own. That is clear. But once you become a child of God, he treats you accordingly which includes instructing and disciplining us. Proverbs 12:1 says, “whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. “
When we try to avoid admitting mistakes due to pride or to protect ourselves, we block God’s work in our lives. God desires intimacy in our relationship with Him just like we desire it in our human relationships. Nakedness before God is scary but it is where restoration takes place.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Once you have confessed and accepted God’s forgiveness, repent. Repair. Take back what you can take back. If you don’t know where to start, start with thoughts and move to actions. Don't use human logic and emotion to determine what can or can't be fixed. When Adam and Eve fell into sin in the garden of Eden, their minds went with them. We cannot trust our minds when they are left to their own devices. They will lead us to sin. We have to learn to actively replace our own thought patterns with God's promises and commands. Start with the thoughts that creep in and whisper lies to you; lies about how your past has ruined everything and made you unlovable and the situation beyond repair. Start with the lies that God's commands are life-sucking, outdated, nonsensical. Start with the lies that you can do whatever you want because God will forgive you and ultimately following Him is too hard.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
When God does reveal our sin to us, we should not condemn ourselves. Rather, we should repent, rejoice that He is working on us, and obey Him. When Jesus says, "if you love me you will obey my commands" in John, it is not a manipulative command. He is saying that when we truly enter into a relationship with Him and experience His love we can't help but want to please Him. Obedience leads to a fulfilled life.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.
He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.