Dealing With Your Past
As new creations in Christ, how should we view and deal with our past? What bearing does and should our past have on our present life and our future? Are there ways in which you have allowed the pain of your past to keep you in bondage in your present life both in your relationship with God and with others?
Before we answer those questions, there are two realities we need to acknowledge and understand: we live in a world where we are both sinners and sufferers. We experience pain and suffering because of the ways people sin against us, and we cause pain and suffering as a result of our own sinful choices and actions. What does that have to do with evaluating our past? We need to examine and view our past with both of those lenses and realities (as a sufferer and a sinner), so that we maintain an accurate understanding of how our past affects our present and future.
Here are some truths to embrace to help you deal with and handle the pain of your past:
THERE ARE THINGS WE COULD AND COULD NOT CONTROL ABOUT OUR PAST
There are things that happened to you in your past that you could and could not control (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14; 9:1, Job 1:1-2:10). As a sinner and sufferer, things likely happened to you in your past that were outside of your control, painful things you did not want or ask for. There are also things that happened to you in your past that are likely the result of your own choices and decisions. As we evaluate our past, we need to identify what things we could and could not control.
HOW WE THINK ABOUT OUR PAST MATTERS FOR THE PRESENT
As we identify the things we could and could not control in our past, we need to examine how we think about what has happened to us. To properly handle our past, we need to realize that the source of our bondage to the past or freedom from it, has to do with how we think about it today (Numbers 11:1-6). Some questions to consider:
What did you receive that you did not want in the past that you still think about with revenge, bitterness, resentment, anger, fear, or worry in the present?
- What did you lose or not receive in the past that you are still treasuring in your heart in selfish, self-centered ways in the present?
What sin(s) of your past that Christ has forgiven and freed you from are you choosing to dwell on in pride, fear, or with a desire to commit them again in the present?
What person(s) have you wronged/wronged you in your past that you refuse to ask/offer forgiveness from/to in the present?
OUR PAST IS UNDER THE REDEMPTIVE, SOVEREIGN HAND OF OUR SAVIOR
We must interpret our past and live in the present according to the character and will of God (Genesis 50:15-20, 1 Peter 4:1-11, 1 Peter 1:13-16). As we look back to what's happened to us in the past, we do so knowing that we serve a Good and Powerful God who "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)." Are there lessons to be learned? Of course. We can learn from our past experiences, but God can use the pain of our past to develop in us spiritual maturity as He works to make us more and more like Christ. We can live in the present knowing that where there is sin, the Lord offers us forgiveness, where there is pain, He can heal, where there is brokenness, He can restore and mend relationships, and where there are consequences, He can give us the strength and ability to endure.
While we don't want to dismiss our past entirely, we also don't want to let the pains of the past dictate how we live today in the present. As we evaluate what's happened to us and how we've been thinking about what's happened to us, we can begin to live in the present according to the character and will of God. What's hindering you from moving on from the past? Take some time and examine yourself and your heart as it relates to the pain of your past. Ask God for wisdom.
Concepts adapted from:
- Dr. Nicolas Ellen, "How to Deal With the Past"
- Stephen Viars, "Redeeming Your Painful Past"