“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. . . . Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
— Nehemiah 8:10
How long should we feel sorry for our sins? If we move on too fast, does that show we aren’t really sorry? Are we doing some injustice to God or to others we have sinned against? Or, if we hold on to being sorry too long, does that mean we do not trust enough in God’s power to forgive?
Guilt can be hard to get over. The feelings can last a long time. And perhaps that’s what we deserve. But since all sins are against God, even when a sin is also against others, God’s situation is totally opposite to ours. He could demand that we wallow in our sorrow. But that’s not who God is. God loves us and is overjoyed when we want to be in a good relationship with him again. In fact, God has so much joy when we repent of our sin that his joy provides the strength we need to forgive ourselves.
Nehemiah urged the people to experience that joy. He called for a feast so that the people could enjoy fine foods and drinks and share with others. This wasn’t about just going through motions; it was about recognizing that God’s law calls for a relationship with us. And as far as God is concerned, if we are ready to stop moving away from him and start moving toward him, that brings him the most joy.
Dear God, drive your joy—the joy of a relationship with you—deep into us. Amen.