Like a seed buried in sorrow, our past pains can bring forth life in the future.Melissa G Pickens
Have you tried to forget your past? Did it work?
Maybe you’ve dropped your head in despair wondering why you can’t do this successfully because you wake up the next morning to find it is still there. Maybe you did let it go, but it boomeranged back. Or you find yourself stuck in the same habits, feelings, reactions, etc., even though you “let it go.” I’ll be the first to pause from the keyboard to raise my hand. I’ve been there.
Can you count the number of times you’ve heard “leave the past behind,” or, “just let it all go”? I cannot. Because it’s far too many!
It’s frustrating when it doesn’t seem to help.
Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians in the Bible telling them he is “forgetting what lies behind;” the past, and “reaching forward to what lies ahead;” the future. Those few words have been yanked out and mis-preached so many times people make church signs out of them, wave banners, and attempt to silence those struggling to reconcile their past with their future.
Context is crucial. It is a dangerous thing to take a line of scripture and change its meaning entirely to suit a personal agenda. Philippians 3:13 is often misinterpreted that we should forget our past, including all that has wounded us. This is not what Paul was referring to.
In the text, he compares his previous life as a religious busybody to his new, chosen life in Jesus,
“You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash–along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant – dog-dung.”Phil 3:13
Paul is choosing to forget, to let go of his religious pride, along with the credentials he held so dear and the position he held. God doesn’t want him (or you or me) to forget what He snatched him out of. That would only breed more pride. But in the laying down of arrogance and position, what Paul is reaching forward to, what his goal is – is Jesus.
So what, then, do we do with our past, and what might it have to do with our future?
Jeremiah 29:11 is another well quoted text, with a surprise:
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
The Hebrew word here for future is interesting. It shares the same root word as past. A complex idea, it means: after, later, behind, and following. Simply put, the past is connected to the present and the future.
Your past and my past are a part of our stories. We cannot rip it from the pages of our history. There are many things I would love to remove. But God did not design our mind, heart, body, or even our destiny that way. All parts of our being are mysteriously interwoven. One automatically affects the other. The past cannot simply be left behind as though it never happened.
There is a reason that method doesn’t work. Oh, we might can choose to “let it go,” but it will be like a broken leg that was never reset. Those sufferings, betrayals, and too-dark-to-share secrets can cause us to lose trust, tempt us to isolate, become fearful, controlling, critical, or even cynical. We may still be able to walk, but our walk will be hindered.
Keep reading. I am not saying we pitch our tent in the past, or make ourselves at home there. Nor should we live obsessed in retrospect, ruminating over every wrong word, every loss, every pit we found ourself hurled in, fallen in, tripped in, or jumped in. Neither shall we stay bound to shame.
What things do you wish you could blot off the pages of your past?
A parent left.
A failed pregnancy.
A regretted choice.
A friend betrayed.
A person abused.
A child is orphaned.
An accident occurred.
An illness stole.
I don’t know what awful hard you have endured, but I do know it cannot simply be forgotten. Whatever darkness you wish didn’t exist has affected how you view yourself, others, the world, and God. It has a way of marring and breaking. I also know God provided a way to heal and restore you, to rewrite your future with a redeemed past.There are treasures to be found in the past that God wants to use in your future. Click To Tweet
One thing I know now that I didn’t know in the early years of marriage, is that abused persons often have someone in their life, usually the spouse, who becomes the abuser-surrogate; the one upon whom they unconsciously spill their anger. I didn’t understand why I often wanted to consume my husband like fire. Until I asked Jesus to come for me in that place, to show me what was fueling the anger beneath that flame, I could not respond to Andy with love, patience, understanding, or kindness.
I had lost my ability to do so when an adult used those same things to groom me for abuse – they patiently poured out love, consistently connected to me with understanding, and showed immense kindness until they’d won my trust. Then they went in for the kill. From there, I began to reject love, throw out patience, leave understanding, and definitely became leery of kindness.
We need God to rescue us in these painful places, to put us back together, get us unstuck, recover whatever was lost, stolen, or given up there. Only then can we have a better future. There are things to learn from the past; humility and compassion are possible when we remember what God brought us out of.
It requires our cooperation; we have to let ourselves be rescued. We have to recognize we need rescuing. Many who beg “Leave the past behind,” are often the same ones saying, “It’s just the way I am,” believing there are certain things that cannot be changed. That is a lie. You cannot change your past, but by inviting God to redeem it, you can change your future. You can be healthier. Holier. Free.Like a seed buried in sorrow, our past pains can bring forth life in the future. Click To Tweet
Thankfully God provides a way:
1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
When you come to know Jesus as He truly is, like Paul urges, you come to know He is well acquainted with suffering, pain, loss, nakedness, temptation, conflict, heartache, and more. He experienced all this for your gain. He bore both your sins and your sufferings on the cross, took it to the grave, and buried it there. Furthermore, He entered hell itself to take back everything stolen from you. He returned to give it all back. (Remember, redemption means there are treasures to go back and get!)
He doesn’t want to leave you in your past. He is adamant to go there with you to rescue, restore, and transform you. Then, use your redeemed past for good in your future.
God, help me. I need You. Sometimes I don’t like my own story. I wish I could erase parts of it. Will you please come until the memories that haunt and taunt me are transformed into the very things that give me a new future to tell? Open my eyes to see what You want to show me. Help me hear Your tender voice and experience Your love in the darkest places. I open the door of my heart and let You in. In Jesus’ name.