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When we look back
- Jacob Ninan
Many people are scared of looking back at their lives because that would bring up painful memories of failures or hurtful treatment by others. They unconsciously use different mental tricks to prevent these memories from coming up. What they don't realise is that such memories work deeply in our mind and distort our attitudes, thinking and behaviour. Then we can't become the successful persons that we are capable of becoming. We also suffer from problems that have not only mental but also physical and spiritual implications. For example, those who have faced severe insults in their childhood may keep themselves aloof from people, hoping to avoid further insults. Those who were harassed by their parents about their performance may live in fear of coming short of perfection. Those who have been abused sexually may have a twisted view of life and people.
But we Christians have the unique advantage of being in a position to deal with the past squarely, get rid of its chains, and go forward enjoying life and liberty. When Jesus came down to Earth, He proclaimed liberty to the captives (Lk.4:18,19). This liberty is not just from the guilt of sin but also from the power of sin (our sin or sin that is in the world) (Ro.6:14).
Usually the process involves 1) acknowledging exactly what has happened to us, 2) asking God for forgiveness of our own sin, 3)forgiving those who have harmed us, 4) giving up bitter attitudes against God for 'allowing' us to go through such experiences, and 5) receiving the total and unconditional acceptance God gives us. As we surrender ourselves to God, the Holy Spirit can minister to our deepest parts.
It takes honesty, sincerity and courage to look at our past hurts just as they happened. We need to understand how they happened, what roles we and other people played in them and, if possible, how they have affected us now. We may need to stop blaming ourselves for what others have done to us, and at the same time admit what all we have done wrong. We can then receive forgiveness for ourselves and also forgive the others.
Many people blame God for what has happened, thinking that He could have prevented it. But when evil people choose to misuse the freedom of choice He has given them, they are at fault and not He. If we have had such complaints against God we can repent now and get a new attitude towards Him.
The Gospel is that God accepts us just as we are when we go to Him in our need (Mt.11:28). Messed up ones, oppressed and downtrodden ones and slaves to sin are all welcome to receive a complete salvation from Him (1Co.6:9-11). He is an expert at turning things around, making something good come out of the worst things that have happened to us (Ro.8:28). He gives us fresh starts in life (Re.21:5). If He could turn a Mary Magdalene with 7 demons into a saint, there is nothing impossible with Him (Lk.1:37). When we receive this free cleansing and acceptance from God, we can lift up our heads, live boldly, and fulfil His plans for our lives (Je.29:11).