My last post addressed my being stuck in the past. Many of you have told me that you can relate to much of what I have struggled with. I find comfort and encouragement knowing I’m not alone in the stuck place.
Fortunately, I am slowly starting to step out of the past. I wish I could say that I have fully extracted myself, but truthfully, I’m only taking baby steps right now. There’s still some emotional and spiritual healing going on.
I am reminding myself that my past may have shaped me, but it does not define me. There are many individuals in the Bible who could have allowed their pasts to suffocate and hinder them from becoming the person God wanted them to be.
Joseph was a spoiled brat. He was abused by his brothers. He was falsely accused of rape and imprisoned unjustly. Do you ever think he asked God why? Do you think he looked back on his past wondering what he could have done differently? He probably did. “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden (Gen 39:21).” God was shaping him into the man that would protect the Israelites. “God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God (Gen. 45:7).” Ultimately, Joseph made peace with his past and his abusers. “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people (Gen. 50:20.)”
Moses was a murderer. During the forty years after leaving Egypt, how many times do you think he looked back with regret? Did he ever long to go back to the palace? How many times did he struggle to put his past behind him and move on? We don’t really know. Yet after forty years in the dessert, God appeared to Moses with a mission. “. . . I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10).” Wait, Moses was 80 years old when God appeared to him. He had a long past. “But Moses asked God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ (Exodus 3:11).” His age didn’t matter; his past didn’t matter. Again, God had shaped a man into His instrument.
Ruth was a widow and a Moabite. During that time in history, she had no worth, no future, and no hope. Her race was also hated by many of the Israelites. Yet she did not give in to her hopeless situation or the cultural norm. She defied her past and looked to a future with her mother-in-law and her mother-in-law’s God (Ruth 1:16-17). When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth went to work. “So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech (Ruth 2:3)” (emphasis added). Notice God’s providence—it just so happened--that she entered the field owned by someone in her father-in-law’s family. She continued to get up every morning and work hard. One day at a time, one step at a time. She was in the middle of doing her job when Boaz noticed her. As she gathered that grain, she had no idea that her future included becoming the great grandmother of King David and distant relative of the Messiah.
Peter was a proud, boastful loudmouth. He boasted that he would never forsake or deny Jesus, but he did. When the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, did Peter allow his past mistakes to hinder? No. This uneducated fisherman stood up in front of thousands and proclaimed confidently and “with certainty that God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36).” In another instance, Peter stood boldly before the high priest and other rulers declaring that salvation was through Jesus Christ alone (Act 4:5-12). “Now when they [the high priest and others] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus (Act 4:13).”
Paul was a murderer who tried to destroy the church of Jesus Christ. He was also a very religious man (Phil. 3:3-8). After meeting Jesus, Paul was a new creation. “But everything that was gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil. 3:7-8); “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 (Phil. 3:13-14).”
To become an excellent Christian and fulfill your kingdom purpose, you too must
have a short memory and a clear direction. So, what aspects of yesterday must you
forget? All of them—the good, the bad, and the ugly. You’ve got to let go of your
successes, your failures, and the ways others have hurt you. It’s not that you don’t
remember the past; it’s that you don’t allow the past to be a controlling factor in your
life. Don’t spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. A much bigger piece of
glass called the windshield should have your focus because where you’re going is a lot
bigger than where you’ve been. (Evans 1408)
There is no magic 3-step program that will get me unstuck from the past. Like Paul, I must change my focus and set my goals. Following in Ruth’s footsteps, I will take one step at a time, one day at a time. I get up. I focus on Jesus, do my job, love my neighbors, family and friends, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide my steps.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:6).”
I’m getting there.
Evans, Tony. CSB Tony Evans’ Study Bible. Holman Publishing, Inc. 2019.
Kathy Garrett McInnis