Don’t Look Back

pictureWhat do you do with the past?

The people you hurt.  The friends you pushed away. The choices you wish you never made.  The opportunities you never took.  The words you spoke – and the ones you should have said, but didn’t.

Most of us, at points, would say “I want to go back. I want my chance again. I want to do it right.”  

But going back over the past doesn’t work. At least, not when we do it.  I tell myself, I could make everything better. But if that was true,  I’d have got it right the first time around.  The past is – past.  I can’t change one second.

But perhaps my helplessness is cause for hope instead of despair.

There is a way of revisiting the past that gives us a future. And Christ has done it for us. Where Adam failed in the Garden of Eden, Christ goes back over the ground and succeeds in the Garden of Gethsemane. Where Israel fail in the wilderness over 40 years, Christ succeeds in the wilderness over 40 days. All of His life was a going-back-over and doing-it-right.

None of us can re-do our past mistakes, but Jesus has already gone back over our deepest failures and re-worked them into something amazing. In Adam we went to the tree to serve ourselves and it brought death and damnation. Jesus went to His tree – the cross – to serve the world, and it brought life and blessing. Now He has risen again, still bearing the wounds of the old life. But He has transformed them. In His hands, the old failures are redeemed. And in His hands, our lives are transformed too.

I don’t know what that will look like – for you, or for me. But going back over the past won’t move us forwards. Christ has re-trod that path and He has gotten in right. In Him, we have the courage to step forward, without shame.

One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)


14 thoughts on “Don’t Look Back

  1. wish i knew how to do that though. my past is burning me up at the moment – i feel like it’s defining my present and future :(

  2. Thank you so much for writing this, it’s a great expression of what Jesus has done for us.

  3. I think I spend more time in the past than the present, some of it by choice, some due to things which invade my mind. I’m very unsure about who God is and what he’s like, but this post really connected with me and it’s subtly challenged that a lot.

    Like Lizzi, I just wish I knew how.
    How to know whether I can trust God, or whether he’s the anger and punishment I fear. How I could actually trust God. How I could begin to let go of the past, and how I get the past out of my mind where it forces itself in. So much I can’t figure out,

  4. Thanks Emma. Needed this.

    In dealing with regret, and letting things go, I’ve sometimes heard this therapeutic phrase: “Give up hope of a better past.”

    It’s helpful, but when we stand it alongside gospel truth, not very hopeful. How good to remember that our Master redeems even our past failures; indeed, he ordains them as the way in which we are being transformed into something unimaginably beautiful.

  5. Hi Jess,

    This post connected with me too! I don’t know what it is that troubles you about the past but I can relate to a lot of what you say.
    I have found that there is no simple answer to the things you can’t figure out. In my experience, dealing with the past is an arduous job. I’ve let my mind spend a lot of time in the past and I sometimes feel unsure about what God is like. I suppose having a conversation about this would be much more helpful than a comment on a blog post. But there are some things that have helped me deal with my past, some of it might help you:

    – I have a friend who is remarkable at living in the present and enjoying it for what it is. And I realised that for someone like me – a (uncomfortably) self-aware and sometimes introspective individual – living in the present is a conscious effort. After a long time of having the past invade me, I’ve found that I need to make the choice to challenge my thoughts about it. For example, I often have flashbacks of really painful stuff and the only way of getting that out of my head is talking to myself; reminding myself that I am not there any longer, that those things cannot harm me anymore.

    – Knowing that I am not the only one who struggles helps too. Just take the post above, you can only write something like that when you’ve been in a painful, desperate place yourself. Knowing that other people have been there and they’ve made it to the other side gives me hope.

    – In terms of trusting God, I think that it is also a decision in some ways. I know what it’s like to be afraid of him. I sometimes get angry and frustrated. I don’t know what he’s doing in my life. Because of my past, I struggle to actually believe that he cares about me. And it comes back from time to time. And I wish he’d just take away all that stuff. And I wish the pain I’ve had and inflicted on others were undone. And I don’t have any doubt that he can do all that. I often struggle to believe that he wants to. There is so much pain everywhere. But it is also true that in Jesus we have someone who understands all the confusion, frustration, anger… Through Jesus, the Father made a way for us to see things more clearly. In Jesus we can be sure that He does care. And that he knows what we feel when our minds are flooded with things from the past. For me, the only way of trusting God is making a conscious effort to remember Jesus. It’s not an easy thing and it isn’t constant on my part. Just this morning I was standing outside crying because I had no idea where to go for comfort and I didn’t even know what was going on in my heart. God felt far away. Even the word ‘God’ seems empty at times. But as I shampooed my hair I remembered that my God has a name (Ex. 3). He is not just a concept but a person. He is a Father, primarily. We can know him through Jesus. We can trust him through Jesus.

    I hope some of this helps. Praying for you x

  6. LOL! I’ll add that I didn’t shampoo my hair outside the house, I did that later xD I just re-read and realised how that sounded.

  7. Jess – we see God when we look at Jesus – the most loving, passionate, beautiful, compassionate, courageous and grace-filled man who ever lived. These are great questions – and there are great answers too. A good start is to read one of the gospels and ask God to show himself to you if He’s there. Remember, Christianity is a relationship, like I have with my husband or friends – which means it takes time. So why not give a wee bit of time to investigating Him and seeing what He has to say for Himself.

  8. Lovely to hear from you Barry! And so important to have other believers remind us that we are being transformed – it’s hard to see it when we look at ourselves.

  9. Hey lizzi – the past is nailed to the cross. For now, remember that picture of the Father and child we talked about yesterday. xx

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