Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 (CSB)
Well, it’s nearly spring. January has come and gone. Nobody has asked about your resolutions in weeks, and on the rare occasion you are required to write the date, your hand automatically draws the correct numbers.
We are fully into the new year now, and yet some of us are still living in the past.
We’re not even surprised when we break our resolutions again. Or we didn’t even make resolutions or set goals in the first place because why bother? We look at the hard situation we’re facing and think it will never be over, or we wonder if we’ll ever be out of the woods. Some of us even find ourselves questioning the good things that are happening. Surely, it was meant for someone else. Or maybe it’s not even real. Because we know we don’t deserve this.
A couple months ago, I watched the finale to a TV show about time travel. One of the characters spent much of the episode struggling with guilt over his actions in an alternate time line. As he whined — I mean, lamented — to one of the characters he’d hurt with his actions, she lost her patience. She said:
“Why are you beating yourself up over a history that only you and I remember?”
I couldn’t shake those words, even as the credits rolled. I started wondering if maybe that’s what Jesus is saying to me every time I dwell on the past, forgetting I’ve been forgiven and remembering every one of my mistakes, my bad decisions, my sins. Even He doesn’t remember those things. Psalm 103 says He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west, and Jeremiah 31 says God promises to forgive our sin and never remember it. No, we can’t change our past, but God will forgive it. No time machine or alternate time line required.
So why are we sometimes so determined to remember every misstep we’ve ever taken? Why do we bring to mind the ugly things we’ve said, the regrettable way we’ve behaved, the times we let others — and ourselves — down? Why do we hit “play” on that record, over and over again, until every detail is ingrained in our minds where they can’t be ignored or forgotten?
In the television show I watched, the two main characters were literally the only people who remembered what had happened and how much it had hurt. In our own lives, reality isn’t so kind. But even when forgiveness has been offered and time has begun healing wounds, we tend to hold onto the memory of our mistakes anyway — as if keeping the memories alive is some kind of atonement, rather than abuse. As if accepting forgiveness somehow diminishes our grief and regret. As if we cannot accept forgiveness until we have punished ourselves sufficiently.
Except . . . Jesus.
The One who deliberately does not recall our sins once He’s forgiven them? He’s the same One who took every bit of punishment we deserve. And He did it so we don’t have to. He looked at our dirty, tear-stained faces full of regret or defiance, shame or arrogance, and He loved us anyway — enough to pay the price for it all, in fact. When we asked, He forgave us. And then He washed us clean, white as snow.
So, here we are, stripped bare and standing in the middle of Lent. And we have a choice. Do we move forward into whatever this year has for us, into whatever God has planned for us? Or do we keep looking back at our pasts, circling back to our mistakes, playing the tape of our failures and our faults over and over again?
Let’s move forward, friend. Let’s trust that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He really meant it! Let’s believe that He no longer brings to mind our mistakes, that He’s removed our sin and washed us clean. Let’s quit beating ourselves up for a past that only we remember.
We don’t even need a time machine to do it. We simply need to accept Christ’s forgiveness and step forward into our future.
Dear God, Why is it so hard to let go of the past? I believe You when You say I’m forgiven, and yet I can’t stop regretting the things that have happened, the things I’ve done. But I want to. I want to live in freedom from both sin and shame, and I know You can help me do that. Please help me! Help me truly and fully accept Your forgiveness and move forward. Please open my eyes to the good works You still have prepared for me and protect me from shame and the lies of the enemy. Thank You, Lord. Thank You for refusing to “beat me up” over a history that You’ve paid for and that you now no longer remember. I love You. Amen.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
It’s not too late to have a meaningful Lenten season. Let us send you a FREE sampler from our Lenten devotional, Journey to the Cross! Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter was written with women of all stages in mind so that we can all better experience the power and wonder of Easter with intentionality and depth. We hope it will bless your Lenten season.
Rita Harvey says
Wow! This really touched my heart in many ways. It made me think of how it’s hurt me and someone I dearly love. Thank you!
Beth Williams says
The problem lies with the devil. He keeps reminding us of our past & telling us that we can’t be loved by Jesus any more. Far to often we tend to believe those lies. He can’t stand to see us happy & forgiven. God tells us to look & see what He is doing & forget the past. Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Quit beating yourselves up over the past which has long been forgotten by God. Let’s look ahead & see what God is doing for us now.
“THANK YOU”… spot on! I recall the title of a book I read (many moons ago): “Would Uh, Should Uh, Could Uh” — past mistakes, &c. that we should LEARN FROM… not dwell on.
May I share two verses that God ‘reminds’ me of when I get into the “past-funk”… “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” [2 Cor.7:10]
“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’.” [Lk 9:62]
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
We are not to linger in past once we have prayed and given it to God. Said sorry for the wrong we have done if it is something we have done in the past. Or if someone has hurt us. No matter who they are. Either way we have to not let go and not keep over the weeks years let it linger in our minds. As that is what the Devil would want. It keep annoying you. So sometime you will need to go and get help to be able to put it behind from a Christian counseling. Which is good along with prayer. To get the proper help you need. I did that for to get over few things that I needed help to get over in my life. Getting the Christian counseling has helped me. As I was able to forgive the people. Pray for them. Leave them in God’s hands. Still pray for their Salvation. I don’t Linger in the past. I am new person today. It has helped me. If I didn’t do that. I would not have been able to talk to them told. I know God wouldn’t want me to do that it says in word I must forgive. Thank you incourage for another excellent reading. Pray for you all. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Karen Knowles says
Excellent post, Mary!
Camilla Hubbard says
Great reminder that when our sins have been forgiven by Jesus, they are also forgotten by Jesus!
I had overlooked those little words in the past, so often, and let Satan beat me up over things.
Thank you for a wonderful post.
thank you so much for this it is so needed