Friday, April 15, 2016

Looking Back

Have you ever noticed how at times we tend to long for the past?  It's easy to look back on days gone by and think "If only I could go back to that season of life."  This is that desire to return to "the good old days".  My guess is we all have done that at one point or another.  At times I've looked back on situations from earlier in my life and thought, "Man, I'd sure love to go back to those days!"

When we find ourselves spending a little too much time looking back, it can be helpful if we remind ourselves of the following truths...

[1]  After time passes, we tend to romanticize the past and make it out to be better than it really was.  Remember the children of Israel?  In Exodus 16:3 they were saying, "If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted."  Then they griped again in Numbers 14:3 by asking, "Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?"  But there was a problem with all this:  Their past was one of being slaves in Egypt.  They were being held against their will and being forced to work.  And here they were finally free from all that, but still thinking back on those times and fondly wanting to return. 

They, like we, forgot something:  The past was not nearly as glorious and wonderful as we may think it was.  There were problems and challenges back then too.  Every season of life, including the past, has its ups and downs.  In looking at the rear view mirror, we tend to only see the good things we liked.  But it's vital to keep in mind the past was not perfect like we tell ourselves at times.

[2]  Focusing too much on the past can cause us to miss out on the blessings of the present.  Sure, there might have been some wonderful thrills yesterday.  But God has also blessed us today.  We have His gifts of life, joy, peace, strength, hope, grace, and love this very moment.  So let's not daydream so much about the past that we overlook the blessings of this new day God has given us.  There is plenty to celebrate right here and right now.

[3]  Life is about moving forward.  Paul wrote these words in Philippians 3:13-14 :  "one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.  I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus."   What an awesome verse!!  I like those words "forward", "towards", and "upward".  He is all about letting go of the past and launching out into the future.  We all should do the same.  Regardless of what has happened in days gone by, there are still people to love, goals to reach, and opportunities to succeed.  What matters more than where we've been, is where we're headed.  I think that's what God cares about, and it needs to be what matters to us as well.  The actress Angelina Jolie was right when she said the following:  "It's hard to be clear about who you are when you are carrying around a bunch of baggage from the past.  I've learned to let go and move more quickly into the next place."

In my mind, it's fine to be thankful for the past and to learn from it.  But we don't need to hold on to it too tightly.  We've got to know when to stop looking back and begin letting go.  What matters more than the past is where we are now, and where we are headed tomorrow.  May God give us the wisdom to know how to handle the past.

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