"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing"
Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
It's a warm and breezy summer day, and you and your gal pals have just barely managed stuffing your friend's drop-top with oh, only about twelve suitcases, filled with all of the essentials needed for your much anticipated annual road trip. You're finally off and on your way!
With your shades on and your head tilted towards the sky, you begin to relax and let the wind caress your face. Everyone chimes in on the sing-a-long as the radio blares one of your favorite tunes.
Then it happens, someone makes that inevitable statement, "Girl, do you remember when"
Now for my best friend Kim and I that statement usually triggers good memories, but we also wander off into the land of I-wish-I-hadn't. And the next thing we know, we're recounting a moment-by-moment run down of the good, the bad, and the ugly of our past experiences.
So should we forget our past? Absolutely not! Though we shouldn't forget our past, we certainly should not live in or dwell on it (Is. 43:18-19). God wants to do a new thing in our lives and in our hearts. But in order for us to reap the fruit of His plan we must first surrender the memories of past pain, guilt, and shame totally and completely over to Him. And when we've placed those memories at His feet we must also trust Him enough to leave them there.
When we start out on a new journey it usually begins with our departure from familiar territory. For the most part, we are either ecstatic or hesitant about the new direction that our life is about to take in discovering new places.
But not so fast! Before we can venture off to discover that uncharted territory, we often find ourselves taking a short detour down memory lane. When we do, it becomes irresistibly impossible to avoid a few of the crippling landmarks that we've stored up in our hearts. There are those moments where we just can't help cruising by the Bad Decision Deli, the Boyfriend Blues Bar, the Deadbeat Dad Diner, the Hate My Husband Hotel, the Stuck-in-this-Situation Station (fill-er-up!), and let's not forget the School of Hard Knocks!
Why is it that every time God decides to take us to new destinations on our journey with Him, we find ourselves making those same pit stops? Dwelling on the bad and the ugly only allows the enemy to turn our past turmoil into excuses that we are not the most suitable person for the purpose that God has called us to fulfill.
How do we overcome those excuses and fears that we are not worthy to do what God desires of us? First, we stop allowing our past to dictate our destination (Phil. 3:13-14). Second, we do not have to continually remind God of how hard our lives are and that we couldn't possibly do what he desires. He knows who we are, where we are, but most importantly where we're going.
When we make a pit stop during our travels, we are usually only there as long as is necessary to collect what is of value for the journey ahead. If anything God intends for our past to be a humbling reminder of the fact that apart from Him we can do absolutely nothing! His Word says that in Christ we are new creations (2Cor. 5:17). That's great news!
The moment we allowed Christ into our heart as Lord of our life, the chains that bound us to our past were broken! We have been reconciled to God through Christ (2Cor. 5:18). God can also use our past as a testament of His mercy and grace, to mold and shape us into the likeness of His Son, and to draw both ourselves and others closer to Him.
Coming to grips with our past is a healing process that only the Father can guide us through. This may require that we repent of past thoughts, words, and actions that we haven't already surrendered to God. It may also mean allowing Him to give us the strength to be able to move forward and forgive those people who have deeply hurt us in some way. All of these are vital actions that must be taken on our part, in conjunction with much prayer, time in His word, and wise godly counsel.
By no means am I implying that our journey through life will be an easy one. Neither am I implying that we can act in rebellion to God's Word and repent, thinking that we are all clear of His hand of discipline. Disobedience to God has consequences. Yet, it is with His loving hand of correction that the Father teaches us obedience through those consequences.
You may be asking, "Well isn't life with God supposed to be a whole lot easier?" The answer is a resounding yes, it certainly is! Life with God, however, does not promise the absence of trial or hardship. Our past should serve as a vivid remembrance of how difficult and unfulfilling life is without Him.
So friends, we may not be exactly where we want to be on this road trip called life, but we should certainly take the opportunity each and every day to thank God, that because of the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, we aren't where we used to be!
Father, I can't thank you enough for your mercy and grace, it is because of it that my past no longer binds me. Lead my heart to rejoice in the new and wonderful purpose for which you have called me. Teach me to live each day with my eyes fixed on the goal where you are beckoning me onward-to Jesus!
(Chantelle Cudger, copyright 2008; all rights reserved.)
Chantelle Cudger was born and raised in Atlanta, GA the sixth of eleven siblings; she holds her family close to her heart.
She attends First Baptist Atlanta where she has also served in the Pre-School Ministry for 9 yrs. She is also actively involved in both short-term missions and local outreach