James 4:8-9 (CEB)

Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.


“Can we just start over?” It’s that moment in every romantic comedy that comes after every possible thing has gone wrong on the couple’s first date. Or maybe it comes a bit later, after their first attempt at relationship has utterly failed – someone has lied, cheated, or hidden something about themselves that it was really important for their partner to know.

Have you ever tried it in real life, in a real relationship? It’s a lot harder than in the movies. That’s not to say I’ve not seen it happen. I have. I’ve seen couples come back from infidelity. From near-breakups over one partner’s addiction. But it’s really, really, hard.

It’s hard because a fresh start takes SO MUCH HUMILITY.

That’s because people can forgive a lot, but they forget nothing.

And so, if you want a fresh start with people, you’re going to have to live with the knowledge that they remember exactly how you treated them in the past. To acknowledge that history – especially when it doesn’t paint us in the best light – can’t help but humble us.

Humility is a vulnerable emotion, because when we are talking about big things that need to be forgiven, it takes a special kind of person not to hold the past over your head all the time. Some folks in your life may want to keep your offenses just kind of hanging there so they can shame you with them from time to time.

That’s why, I think, the Bible points to humility before God as the place it all begins. Why? Because we know God can be trusted to lift us up rather than tearing us down. It’s safe to acknowledge our sins and shortcomings before our Creator, because what Christ has forgiven is never held against us again (Colossians 2:14). From there, we can seek forgiveness from others in a way that is healthy and whole rather than laden with fear and shame. And that’s the only way we can get a fresh start – especially on the things in our lives we most regret.

by Joe Monahan

For Pondering & Prayer

Is there a relationship where you desperately want to experience a fresh start, but doubt it’s possible? If you don’t believe you’ll find forgiveness with the person you wronged, have you tried offering your pain and contrition humbly to God?

Prayer: Dear God, there are parts of my life – actions I’ve taken, words I’ve spoken – that I regret. Maybe the person I wronged can’t forgive me. Maybe I can’t forgive myself. But let me not be consumed by shame. I come to you, today, acknowledging my sin and asking to be covered by the forgiveness of Christ. Let me be freed from guilt and shame and freed to love as you have loved me. Amen.