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Tying ourselves to the past
- Jacob Ninan
Have you come across people who keep telling us how they were treated unjustly by someone in the past or suffered a traumatic event and how they are suffering because of that today? It becomes sadder when they make their past experience an excuse for their substandard life now, and virtually bind themselves to living like that for the rest of their life. What is happening here is that they have found a 'reason' for their present misery and have come to believe that there is nothing they can do to change things because of what they have gone through. Because they have managed to put the blame on someone else, they think it frees them from the responsibility to do something about it. But actually their problem is that they don't realise they can deal with the past, put it aside and move on to a better future. Perhaps you are like this yourself?
If anyone had reasons to justify himself for being bitter and moping around in self pity for the rest of his life, it would be Joseph. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold off as a slave, falsely accused of a crime and jailed, and forgotten and neglected by one who could have helped him. But he had a different attitude and approach towards his past, and we can imagine that it was a continual interaction with God with regards to his life that kept him on the growth track. At the end he was able to tell his brothers that God had turned the evil they intended for him into something good not only for him but even for them (Ge.50:20). No trace of bitterness.
On the other hand Esau is an example who didn't have the right attitude like Joseph. He was bitter towards Jacob for cheating him of his birthright and his father's blessings (Ge.27:41), forgetting his own responsibility for it, and it doesn't appear that he ever gave it up fully.
God is the Author of new beginnings (Re.21:5). However much damage our lives have suffered in the past, He can do a turnaround in unexpected ways, and give us a new future. He challenges us, e.g., that even if our past has been of the worst type we can have the best of the future if we would acknowledge our need and repent (Is.1:18,19). He doesn't promise to keep all evil away from us or to deliver us out of it whenever it comes near us. But He does promise to turn it around and make it work something for our (eternal) good (Ro.8:28,29).
If God is to be able to do this for us, what do we need to do from our side? Certainly we need to clear hearts of all traces of bitterness towards people who have inflicted harm to our lives (He.12:15,16), and trust in God to turn things around for our good. We need to learn how to 'forget' the things that are behind (break away from the past by stopping the habit of excusing our wrong attitudes and actions using our past) and press on towards the greater good that God has planned for us (Php.3:13,14). This has to be a conscious decision and action on our part. Then we make way for God to take us forward.