How many of us have sat alone, pondering over our past life, and thought “If I could just go back and do it over?” If everyone were honest with themselves, there would be none to say they haven’t, simply because none of us is perfect. Even the best of us would wish we could do something over. Some even have nothing more than a total mess to look back on.
The Apostle Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on (emphasis mine) toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)
Regrettably, far too many of us waste our future, by dwelling too much in the present on the past. To the extreme, we may be angry with ourselves, get depressed, turn to a bad habit (or worsen an existing one), mope around, and feel sorry for ourselves because we made bad decisions in the past. There are a few things we need to keep in mind if and when this strikes us.
Nothing is going to change the past. It is what it is, and will always be.
I don’t know anyone who has ever been able to change their past. Do you? So why dwell on it? We have a choice to make right now, just like we did in the past, but now we can make the right choice. On the other hand, we can choose to sit around thinking, “why did I do that, why did I go there, how could I have been so stupid, I’ve ruined my life, there’s no future for me, what if” and on and on and on. When we’ve finished kicking ourselves, the past is still the past, and nothing is changed, except we just feel worse than we did before.
The regret we may have of the past was caused by bad decisions back then.
I’m sure you have thought about all the different directions your life has gone because of decisions that were made at certain times. I have. Some decisions we’ve made have been good ones and some have been terrible. We can start right now though by making better decisions. Any time a decision is to be made, particularly one that will affect the rest of our life, we should pause and remember, (1) don’t be hasty and (2) contemplate how we will feel about that decision tomorrow.
Fretting over the past wastes time.
What does fretting over the past actually accomplish? I’ll give you a clue. If it were assigned a number, it would be less than the number one. It accomplishesnothing. The wasted time that is spent “crying over spilled milk” could have been time spent making better decisions for the future. Let me give you an example: You’re driving on the interstate and make the wrong turn. Instead of taking the next exit and correcting your mistake, you just keep driving on mile after mile, kicking yourself because you made a wrong turn. Hundreds of miles later, you’re still upset over the wrong turn you made, but you still haven’t done anything to get turned around toward the right direction. You’re wasting time and getting further and further off course.
Tomorrow today will be in the past, so make good decisions today.
We are, right now, living our past. Each day should be lived with the attitude that what we do today determines our past for tomorrow. If we “flub up” today, tomorrow we will be spending our time, again, thinking about the past mistakes of today. If we make good decisions today, we will be clear thinking and active tomorrow in the good decisions we made today.
Forget the past.
What is the best thing we can do with our past? We can learn from it. Few people do so, but those who are wise definitely learn from their past. They learn to not make the same bad mistakes, and improve on the good ones. Once it has accomplished its purpose of our learning from it, then, forget it, and move on. Don’t let it be an albatross around your neck.
The past cannot be changed, but Jesus Christ can change the future.
We cannot change our past, but if we are a child of God, Jesus Christ can change our future.
One of the most miraculous occurrences of salvation is the change that takes place in a person’s life once Jesus resides in our hearts by His most Holy Spirit. Our past does not matter to Jesus. What does matter is our “present.” What are we going to do with the “now?” Our physical circumstances may not always change, simply because that isn’t important. The important thing is our relationship with Jesus Christ or lack thereof.
Even with one who is already a Christian, Jesus can fix it if you just let Him have your problems, maybe not in the way we want, but in a better way of His choosing. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) Do you love Him? Are you one of His? God the Father wants His children to come to Him with their problems, just as we would want our earthly children to come to us. Here’s the difference though. We can’t always make things better for our children, but God can for us.
Jesus takes us just the way we are, warts and all.
Are we still thinking about those past failures, not quite convinced? I’m sure there are many who, even as a Christian, are so disappointed in themselves, they just can’t let go.
For the unbeliever, if you want Jesus to save your soul and make you His, He cares about one thing. Will you put your trust in Him? If so, He wants you to follow Him, and He will take care of everything else. He accepts you completely, just the way you are, warts and all.
For the believer, He wants you to let Him take care of you. Children often want to “help,” but don’t have the maturity or knowledge to do so. As children of God, we are the same. We too often think we can handle what comes our way, but God knows better. He knows we will be kicking ourselves later over the bad decisions we will make by excluding Him.
Freedom is found in Christ Jesus.
As long as we dwell over our past mistakes, we are a slave to each one. We will never be free. We will never accomplish what God wants in our lives. We will never know true happiness and peace. But once we turn the past over to Him, and follow His guidance each day forward, our future will be bright. We will know true happiness and peace, even if the world is falling down around our ears. Why would that be? The answer to that is, God knows what is best for us and will never make any wrong decisions.
What if I just decide; I’m getting nowhere worrying about the past, and I’ll never be at peace until I let it go. “Therefore, Lord, I finally realize that you love me just the way I am, and only you can take a broken life and make it brand new. Only you can provide the right direction. From this day on, I may trip and fall occasionally, but I’ll immediately reach out for Your hand and get back up and follow You.”
Making the right decisions comes from asking for God’s guidance.
The most important thing we can do in this area as Christians is to ask for God’s guidance … first. How often do we do this? Do we ask Him about a decision that needs to be made, or do we tell Him what we are going to do and ask for His blessing? There is a difference you know. Probably far too often, we want His blessing, but not His advice. Who is wiser, God or us? Doesn’t it make since to follow the one who will make the right choices? Then we won’t be mumbling under our breath, “If I could just go back and start over.”
There are no “rewind” or “delete” buttons in our life. The life we live, minute by minute, remains with us. It cannot be changed. However, if we messed it up, it can be forgiven and forgotten by God. “Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” (Micah 7:19 NLT), “And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34 NLT), “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Hebrews 8:12 NLT), “Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” (Hebrews 10:17 NLT)
How many Christians miss out on blessings because they will not wait upon the Lord? “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Every bad decision we make is due to our not waiting on His instructions or either not following the instructions He has already provided. So we make a mess out of things and then brood about it. What was it Paul said in our introductory verse? “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on (emphasis mine) toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Let us vow to leave the past in the past, and strive to be in His will today. By doing so, tomorrow will take care of itself.