The seasonal shift is upon us: kids are going back to school; fall planning and projects have begun; and the weather is about to change. It’s easy to look back at the summer and think, “What if …” but is that what God wants for our life? Regret is a fickle friend. I think there is a better friend to be found.

Regret assumes all of the knowledge of today, much of which wasn’t available when past decisions were made. And as such, “regret” is never accurate. Regret also leads to self-pity—and “self-pity” only tells lies.

But there are some helpful things about regret—the self-reflective nature of regret can be used for good. So what if we had the self-reflection without the self-pity and without regret itself? What if, right now, each of us took the things we wish could have been different and turned them into positive change? That effort begins with reflecting on God's character.

God's Character: A Reminder for Times of Regret

Although God himself is unchanging in character—he is no fickle person—he is prone to make changes. God knows that things must be different to be better.

We see this in the life of Moses; Moses’ entire journey starts with his deep sadness about the enslavement of the Hebrew people (Exodus 2:11). Moses first responds incorrectly, with taking the life of a persecutor. Filled with worry, and surely regret, Moses runs to the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). And this is where the story could end—with Moses living out his life as a fugitive. But God wants something from Moses; he wants to redeem Moses and use his life for good. Yahweh says to Moses:

“Surely I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry of distress because of their oppressors, for I know their sufferings. And I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from this land to a good and wide land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, … look, the cry of distress of the Israelites has come to me, and also I see the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and you must bring my people, the Israelites, out from Egypt” (Exodus 3:7–10 LEB).

Moses believes God, but knows the severity of these words. He understands that the task of freeing the Hebrew slaves will be incredibly difficult. Moses says to God:

“‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out from Egypt?’ And [Yahweh] said, ‘Because I am with you, and this will be the sign for you that I myself have sent you: When you bring the people out from Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain’” (Exodus 3:11–12 LEB).

Moses’ life will not be one full of regret after all, but instead one of advocating on behalf of the oppressed. And God himself will be with Moses. And today, God himself wants to be with you. God wants to change the world through your life (John 17).

Turning Regret into Advocacy

The new seasons of life bring with them new opportunities. Indeed, each day is new, but the feeling of a new season helps us to make commitments and take actions. Some of these actions are fueled by regret, while others are fueled by desire. But what if our new commitments were instead fueled by our love for our God?

We have an opportunity, right here and right now, to make a decision to walk alongside those in need. To be a people who, like Moses, lift up those on the underside of power—those without a voice. And we have a God who wants to see that happen.

We can turn our regret into advocacy. In the process, we may find that the next seasonal transition is marked by far less regret because our lives are too filled by doing good for the self-pity to reign.

Our God hears our cries and hears the cries of the hurting. The Exodus story proves that. What can you do this coming season to walk alongside those who desperately need an advocate? How can you change your lifestyle to better align it with God’s ways? Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit working through you this season to transform lives. And imagine all the glory you could give to Jesus when that happens.

Here is the season. Embrace it. Don't live in the past. Think of what you can do in the future. May God renew you. May he turn your regrets into advocacy.*

 

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Join us in renewing Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. Or partner with Jesus’ Economy by donating your time or birthday to making the world a better place.

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*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "A New Year Renewed by God: Reflections on Exodus."

Fear drives many decisions. It leads us to make harsh decisions, based on stereotypes of whole people groups. Historically and of recent, fear has led people to bend the Bible to fit their own viewpoints.

At the core of the biblical text is a call to salvation, compassion, and equality. To characterize it any other way is to miss the entire point of the Scriptures we hold so dear and defend.

I have recently written on how Christians should respond to refugees and immigrants. Since that time, the comments I have received have made me realize that further clarity is needed.

The Bible is full of stories of refugees and immigrants. There are countless passages in defense of the helpless, weak, and marginalized; as well as many passages about how to treat an outsider.

Old Testament Refugees and Immigrants

Abraham the patriarch, was a refugee:

“And there was a famine in the land. And Abram went down to Egypt to dwell as an alien there, for the famine was severe in the land” (Genesis 12:10 LEB).

But Abraham is not the only one who is a refugee in the Old Testament. Abraham and his wife Sarah cause Hagar, Sarah’s servant and the mother of Ishmal, to become a refugee, when Sarah exiled Hagar out of anger (Genesis 16). Those once in need create injustice—as so often is the case with power.

Later in Genesis, ten of Abraham’s great-grandsons go to Egypt as refugees during a famine:

“When Jacob realized that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’ Then he said, ‘Look, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy grain for us there that we may live and not die’” (Genesis 42:1–2 LEB).

This moment leads to Jacob (Abraham’s grandson), and his entire family, moving to Egypt as immigrants. They are accepted into Egypt by Pharaoh himself (see Genesis 46:26–27; 47:1–12).

The Hebrew people eventually become slaves in the land of Egypt. This is the case when Moses comes on the scene. Moses himself becomes an outlaw and refugee in the land of Midian, after he murders an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave (southeast of Israel; Exodus 2:11–22).

And, as we all know, Moses and his brother Aaron—by the power of Yahweh—lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. Effectively, the entire people group become refugees with nowhere to go (Exodus 2:23–25; 15:22–27). This leads Yahweh himself to provide for them (Exodus 16). And one of the first things God does upon their rescue is to recognize that they must have laws to protect the immigrant, refugee, and powerless (Exodus 22:21–27).

Later in Israel’s history, once the Hebrew people are a nation with their own land, king David himself lives as an asylum-seeker on multiple occasions (e.g., 1 Samuel 21:10).

Trekking forward in Israel’s history, we find the prophet Elijah living as a refugee because he spoke truth to the king and was persecuted for it (1 Kings 17:3, 8–10).

And these are simply the stories of major Old Testament figures who were outcasts, asylum-seekers, immigrants, and refugees. There are also many stories of immigrants who needed protection and help—such as the mother of king David, Ruth, who was a Moabite who immigrated to Israel (see Ruth 1).

Jesus the Refugee

The most famous biblical example of a refugee is Jesus himself.

“Now after [the wise men] had gone away, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to seek the child to destroy him.’ So he got up and took the child and his mother during the night and went away to Egypt. And he was there until the death of Herod, in order that what was said by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matthew 2:13–15 LEB).

After Jesus’ birth, king Herod sought to kill Jesus (Matthew 2). As a result, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary had to flee to Egypt as refugees. To clarify an error I have seen recently: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus travel to Bethlehem for Caesar’s census before going to Egypt (Luke 2:1–7). Jesus did not travel to Egypt to register for the census; he went there as a refugee (compare Matthew 1:25–2:1).

How Jesus Judged Real Christianity

It seems that in the midst of so much modern debate about policy and politics, we have lost sight of one vital part of the Christian message—compassion. I have even heard many people argue that we cannot judge how a real Christian should respond to the global refugee crisis.

To answer this question, we can simply look to Jesus’ own words. When speaking about his final judgment, upon his second coming, Jesus says this to those who understood and received his message:

“Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me as a guest, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we [do these things]?’ And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’” (Matthews 25:34–40 LEB).

It is in the welcoming of the stranger, helpless, marginalized, and those in need that Jesus recognizes a true Christian from one who is not (Matthew 25:31–46).

In worries about security, many people have become apathetic to the suffering of the helpless. When empathy fails us, what we hold so dear—freedom itself—will also fail. The very nature of what we call Christianity will fail.

Out of a desire to protect ourselves, we often turn a blind eye to the suffering of other people. But in the process of doing so, we’re hurting humanity. We’re hurting freedom and we’re hindering the work of the gospel.

 

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Related Audio Content by John D. Barry

 

 

Watching the day-old old calf frolic across the field—full of life and hope—I am filled with joy. I then see its mother, nudging it forward. I am reminded of the way God cares for us. He knows the difficult life ahead, just like this mother cow, but he wants us to enjoy our time in the green pasture nonetheless (Psalm 23). He nudges us along.

“Every age has its turn. Every branch of the tree has to learn. Learn to grow, finds its way, Make the best of this short-lived stay.” —José Gonzaleź, “Every Age”

We all have to learn to find our way. We all have to grow. And we cannot do so when we are stagnant. We must move along. We must stand up and walk, even run, like that day-old calf. We must embrace the uncertain ground, knowing that in this field and in the next, and in the one after that, we will grow and learn. If God says it is in his will to move along—if he nudges our heart—we should do so (Luke 9:62). Yet the uncertainty of life often overwhelms us.

A God Who Lurks in the Uncertainty

If you look back at the lives of the prophets—from Moses to Elijah to Jonah—it is clear that their lives were often lived in the uncertainty. God nudged them to unknown places—from wildernesses, to mountain tops, to foreign cities—but he was there each step along the way. God gave the prophets the words to say and the provision they needed (e.g., 1 Kings 17; Jonah 4:6–7; Exodus 16).

The prophets had to learn and grow. And in the uncertainty, God made that happen.

Knowing the future sounds wonderful, but it would ruin the present. The future is only God’s to behold (compare Ecclesiastes 8:7).

The Growth We Desire

Growth often means pain. And growth without pain is an oxymoron. Suffering is often how God shows us himself. Suffering is part of the call to serve Jesus:

“If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 LEB).

It may be hard to hear these words, and I know from experience, that they are even harder to live. But when lived, these words will transform us.

Think of your growing pains as a child—that summer when your legs hurt so bad that you couldn’t seem to drink enough milk. Your body was transforming. Without that pain, you wouldn’t be who you are today. This is how faith is; it is often like growing pains.

“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4 LEB).

We know why suffering should be counted as joy, because it will change us for the better. It will draw us closer to God.

If the mother cow didn’t nudge her calf along, it would never see the green pasture outside the barn. It would live a life that was boring, sad, and stagnant. If God didn’t nudge us along into the unknown, we would never experience the joy of others coming to Christ, of our relationships with him growing. We wouldn’t see the pierced hands of Christ for what they really are—redemption, relationship, and the freedom to know God.

As we enter the New Year, it’s easy to look back at the last year and think, “What if …” but is that what God wants for our life? Regret is a fickle friend. I think there is a better friend to be found.

Regret assumes all of the knowledge of today, much of which wasn’t available when past decisions were made. And as such, “regret” is never accurate. Regret also leads to self-pity—and “self-pity” only tells lies.

But there are some helpful things about regret—the self-reflective nature of regret can be used for good. So what if we had the self-reflection without the self-pity and without regret itself? What if, right now, each of us took the things we wish could have been different and turned them into positive change?

Although God himself is unchanging in character—he is no fickle person—he is prone to make changes. God knows that things must be different to be better.

We see this in the life of Moses; Moses’ entire journey starts with his deep sadness about the enslavement of the Hebrew people (Exodus 2:11). Moses first responds incorrectly, with taking the life of a persecutor. Filled with worry, and likely regret, Moses runs to the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). And this is where the story could end—with Moses living out his life as a fugitive. But God wants something from Moses—he wants to redeem Moses and use his life for good. Yahweh says to Moses:

“Surely I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry of distress because of their oppressors, for I know their sufferings. And I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from this land to a good and wide land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, … look, the cry of distress of the Israelites has come to me, and also I see the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and you must bring my people, the Israelites, out from Egypt” (Exodus 3:7–10 LEB).

Moses believes God, but knows the severity of these words. He understands that the task of freeing the Hebrew slaves will be incredibly difficult. Moses says to God:

“‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out from Egypt?’ And [Yahweh] said, ‘Because I am with you, and this will be the sign for you that I myself have sent you: When you bring the people out from Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain’” (Exodus 3:11–12 LEB).

Moses’ life will not be one full of regret after all, but instead one of advocating on behalf of the oppressed. And God himself will be with Moses. And today, God himself wants to be with you. He wants to change the world through your life (John 17).

The New Year brings with it the thought of new opportunity. Indeed, each day is new, but the feeling of a New Year helps us to make commitments and take actions. Some of these actions are fueled by regret, while others are fueled by desire. But what if our new commitments were instead fueled by our love for our God?

We have an opportunity, right here and right now, to make a decision to walk alongside the oppressed. To be a people who, like Moses, lift up those on the underside of power—those without a voice. And we have a God who wants to see that happen.

Our God hears the cries of the hurting. What can you do this coming year to walk alongside those who desperately in need of an advocate? How can you change your lifestyle to better align it with God’s ways? Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit working through you this year to transform lives. And imagine all the glory you could give to Jesus when that happens.

Here is the New Year. May God renew you. And may God renew our world. Let’s make this Jesus’ economy, based on self-sacrifice and love.

 

Want to get involved with helping the oppressed right now? Join Jesus’ Economy in renewing Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. You can also partner with Jesus’ Economy by donating your time or birthday to making the world a better place.