How We Deal With Our Past
How we deal with our past will affect how we live today and tomorrow.
For some people, their past experiences are shackles to their feet and handcuffs to their hands. But for some refreshing individuals, the burden of history is solid fuel to boost their lives forward into new heights.
Mistakes and tragedies of the past are like weights. Some let these weights wear them down while others use these same weights to build up their muscles. The former group of people becomes weary and depressed while the latter group becomes strengthened and renewed.
Why the difference?
Recently I had a very refreshing talk with a widow. Her husband of more than 30 years went to be with the Lord about a year ago.
She still misses her husband greatly. She speaks fondly of their time together. However, her focus is not on the past but on the present. She enjoys her new role and new freedom. While she enjoyed her role of being a helper to her husband, she is having the time of her life devoting her energy to new services for her Lord.
Her willingness to accept reality and see opportunities in her new role as widow is so refreshing to me. As a result of her ability to deal with her past, she is in a position to live fruitfully for the present and look at tomorrow confidently.
On the other hand, I had in-depth talks with several other depressed individuals recently. These individuals have physical or emotional scars from past experiences. They tried to deal with the past by denial, suppression, self-blame and self-pity. They could not accept their past. What happened in the past did not match their expectations.
Their inability to accept their past causes them to resent their present and this in turn causes them to look at the future with pessimism.
My heart aches for these individuals. How I wish they could surrender their expectations, past and future, to the Lord and let Him direct their lives. Also, how I wish they would accept God’s forgiveness for their sins and weaknesses.
King David sets an excellent example for us in how to deal with our past.
After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God let David know that the son she was bearing would die. David did not give up but fasted and prayed. He pleaded with the Lord to deliver the child from death.
But the Lord did not answer David’s prayer. After his son died, David resumed his normal life. He “washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes; he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped”. Then he went home and ate.
David’s servants were surprised at this sudden change of behavior. David explained, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?” (II Sam. 12:13-23)
David faced and accepted reality. He wished his son would live, but when that was not the case, he courageously accepted the consequence of his sin. He accepted God’s punishment and forgiveness. Then he moved on.
Later, David was able to write in Psalms 32:1, 2, 10-11:
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit…. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (NIV)
Let us leave the excess baggage of history at the feet of Jesus. Let us use the weights of history as dumbbells for our exercise. Let us rocket ourselves to new heights using the load of history as fuel.
If we believe that He holds tomorrow, is it too much to believe that He also controls the past? After all, from the perspective of the day after tomorrow, tomorrow (our future) is yesterday (our past). In fact, if you follow my line of reasoning, we have no basis to believe that God holds tomorrow if we do not also believe that He also holds yesterday.
If our Lord holds both tomorrow and yesterday, then we should have no regrets about our past and no fears about our future.
May it be so with you. And with me.