Today, I went to a funeral service for Janet, the mother of a friend and a faithful servant to God. I was lucky enough to meet Janet and to speak with her on a few occasions. On one such occasion she shared her love of God with me and she shared this verse:
Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.
She shared this with me when I was questioning whether God was the God of the Old Testament (who often seems angry and maybe even mean) or the God of the New Testament (who seems to be all about love). Janet cited this verse to assure me that God was the same throughout time — all about love.
Return to me with your whole heart, He tells us. No matter what we have done. No matter where we are. God invites us to return to Him. He tells us to rend our hearts, not our garments and return to Him. Sometimes our hearts and minds are fixed on something other than God. Rend your heart, fast, weep, mourn and return to God. I think sometimes we are afraid to make the change necessary to return our hearts to God. It needs to be a conscious decision. We need to fast and cleanse our body, weep and cleanse our inner spirit, mourn and say goodbye to something in our life. We change our heart, change our life and follow God. And the good part is… He will take us back. He is gracious and merciful. He is slow to anger. Look around at the world. He has lots to be angry with. But He still loves us, all of us! He is abounding in steadfast love. That is my favorite part. Abounding in steadfast love. God is love (Old Testament or New Testament — He is love).
And He is constantly calling us to Him.
Janet’s body is now returning to God, but I believe her heart, her whole heart, has long been with God.
Thank you for your abounding and steadfast love. Show me how to share the same with others. I am sorry for the times I turn away. Help me to rend my heart. Help me to return to you whenever I turn away.
(And God, thank you for Janet. No matter her struggle she remained steadfast in you. Welcome her into your kingdom. We will miss her here, but know that she is finding everlasting joy in you.)