Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.
–Oswald Chambers, evangelist and Christian educator
Then the whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night. All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and little children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:1-4 (HCSB)
Tempted to Give Up?
Will any of us have an unwanted wilderness experience in which we, like the Israelites, are not tempted to give up and turn back? My early years before becoming a Christian were particularly painful. Then, as I contemplated embracing Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I innately understood that such a radical decision was going to cost me in lost friends. Close friends. Friends that meant the world to me. Friends that had provided a sense of support and security through some particularly vulnerable years. Just the thought of losing valued relationships made moving forward in Christ all the more difficult.
When we walk through a door into another room, we must, by necessity, leave the previous room. If the lighting is different, with the first room being very dark, for example, our view of the new surroundings is influenced by the dilation of our pupils. What had helped us see more effectively in one environment momentarily blinds us in the next. If only making emotional transitions were so simple—and so short-lived! Why is it that we have such a difficult time letting go of the past?
The Past Matters
Behavioral experts tell us that the early childhood years have a profound, lasting impact on our entire lives. Isn’t it amazing how such a short period of time can impact decades of living? I think the typical person’s view of life is often defined more by his or her perspective of the past than by a clear understanding of God. In many ways, yesterday is all we know, with its subconscious script continually playing in the background.
The future is unknown, the past familiar. When we fail to understand God’s nature God and how He operates, we’re often tempted to give up and turn back. In dark moments, it seems easier to choose a dysfunctional, but familiar yesterday over what we perceive as an unknown and scary tomorrow. We can easily gauge the pain of the past—we’ve already experienced it. But the potential pain of the future? Well, if the past was bad, the future just might be worse!
Processing Our Issues
How do we make sense of this struggle? Why do we so desperately hold on to what was when we so desire a better tomorrow? The answer lies in how we process the difficulties of the wilderness. All too often, we are told, “Just get on with it! The past is history. It’s time to forget what lies behind and move forward.” But there’s a problem with such an approach, and it’s not a small one! The past isn’t just history if it still negatively influences our current relationships. We can move on to the future only after we have learned to somehow reprocess the past through the light of God’s love and faithfulness.
The Israelites in the wilderness could have looked at their current needs, remembered the pain and bondage of Egypt, and then focused on God’s faithfulness as He powerfully delivered and supernaturally provided for His children. Reframing their experiences would have empowered them to put the pain of the past to rest—permanently.
Let’s not be ignorant of God’s wise and loving ways. He may sometimes use our wilderness experiences to bring painful memories to the surface—not to torment us, but to free us from their unhealthy influence.
Sometimes, we need only to pray and express our emotions to heaven. Other times, we need to prayerfully process past hurts in light of God’s love and forgiveness. And sometimes, the best course of action is to talk through our experiences with a wise and supportive person.
Always remember that God concerns Himself with more than your present and your future—He wants to redeem your memories as well. Surrender what once was into the loving hands of your heavenly Father, giving Him complete freedom to rewrite your perspective.
Do your circumstances look bleak? Is hope for a better tomorrow eluding you? Are you tempted to give up and turn back? Don’t do it! The bondage of your past offers no hope for your future.
This post is drawn from Chapter Twenty of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers.