Putting the Past Behind Us

By Ruth Johnson

Early in this journey of growing in a very personal relationship with the Father, I realized that I had to find a way to put my past behind me. Otherwise, thinking about it would continue to batter me emotionally, and make it impossible for me to enter into all that He had planned for me to experience.

Yet, by then I was also keenly aware that overcoming the pain caused by a hurtful past is not found in “stuffing” it, ignoring it, or minimizing what affected us.

Rather, what helps us become whole and then move on into everything God has planned for us is being fully honest with ourselves about how we are hurting, and be just as real with the Father about it also.

I found this freeing insight in the life of David.

He was cruelly rejected by his father, as if he didn’t exist. He was publicly degraded by his brother, Eliab, who spoke demeaning words to him in front of others. His friend, Saul, betrayed him and viciously turned on him. He had many men killed in battle so that David could take the wife of one of them.

He also made serious mistakes with his children that caused him more and more heartache the older they got.

There was overwhelming pain in David that he had to face and overcome.

But, what I find remarkable is how he didn’t hide any of his feelings from himself, or from God. Rather He faced them honestly. He even said these really surprising things to God:

“Lord, why do You stand so far away? Why do You hide when I need You the most? How long will You forget me? How long will You look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul and sorrow in my heart every day? My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why do You remain so distant? Why do You ignore my cries for help? Why have You tossed me aside?” Psalm 10:1, 13:1-2, 22:1-2, 43:2 NLT

It’s also amazing to me that God never scolded David for saying any of that to Him.

He was never upset about David’s blunt honesty.

God knew it would help David feel closer to Him. So all He wanted to do was be there for His son, and respond to this broken, hurting man with compassionate understanding.

Then, after his serious failures, God still called David a “man after His own heart” and he fulfilled his destiny as King.

Yet, for some people, what’s affecting them is so unclear that they can’t be honest with themselves, or with God, like David was. They need help understanding what is troubling them, and Word-based counseling can be the Father’s merciful provision, so that He can help them to be set free. However, what saddens me is I have known countless men and women who have received this help. But, many don’t stop analyzing their pain. Instead, they continue talking and thinking about the hurts. The years have gone by and they have never been able to put it all behind them, and begin to live.

They also have become increasingly more self-focused, because so much of their time is centered on thinking about themselves, and their ongoing efforts for their hurts to be healed.

It may even seem to them that doing all this is wise, even helpful. However, it is a quest that seriously hinders their ability to have the rewarding relationships, and a purpose for their life, that the Father wants for them to experience in the present. Because none of this is possible when someone keeps putting their energy, time and effort into thinking about themselves, in an endless attempt to “fix” their lives.

This self-focus also shuts down intimacy with God because when they try to worship, often all they can see is themselves, their pain, and what they need from Him.

And, He does very much care about our needs.

But, when any believer turns his time of being with God into mainly thinking about himself and what He can do for them, this is a one-way, self-centered relationship.

No relationship can be close, if it is about one person thinking mainly about themselves, their needs, and their struggles.

This will destroy closeness with anyone, including God.

Sometimes, people keep looking at their past because they want to recall what they can’t remember. They think that is going to help their heart to heal. However, in all my decades of ministry, including extensive pastoral counseling trying to help people understand what is troubling them that happened a long time ago, I have never known anyone who benefitted from trying to get their mind to remember what it does not recall. Instead, I have only seen this effort devour precious years of their life. Sadly, what a person is searching for, even if they don’t realize it, is a way to regain what they have lost. Yet, none of these efforts can ever give back to them the love they missed out on. Worse yet, trying to remember what the mind does not recall will cause what they do remember to become even more painfully raw.

Meanwhile, God’s plan for them is shipwrecked.

Living their life to the fullest is on hold, until all the endless levels of hurts are examined.

The pain of the past is able to rob them all over again.

Then, even if they start to do better, as soon as another hurt comes along, or another troubling reminder of the past affects them, they often think they are not “healed.” So, they return to analyzing and talking about these new hurts.

To be honest, I have many years of my childhood that I can’t remember at all, and I’m hugely grateful for those missing pieces in my memories. I consider what I can’t recall from my past a gift of mercy and kindness from God. I celebrate that He did this for me.

I also decided not to even try to remember any of it. I just wanted to face the pain of the past that I did very clearly remember. Then put it all behind me so that I could move on with where God wanted to take me. This decision made it possible for me to pour my whole heart into what was ahead of me, that a loving Father wanted me to enjoy living to the fullest for Him. However, if I had gone the direction of trying to figure out every detail of my past, including trying to remember what I had no memory of, I would still be working on it. None of this moving forward would have been possible. Therefore, I’m overwhelmingly grateful that the Bible doesn’t tell us to keep on trying to uncover every detail of our past hurts, or keep on thinking and talking about them.

This is what a loving, kind Father tells us to focus on:

“Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus on whom our faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

But, we can’t keep our eyes on Jesus, when we continue to focus on what is negative, such as our past. It’s just not possible. Devastating experiences are that powerful, when they keep our thoughts riveted on the losses in our life.

Yet, when we honestly face our hurts; we forgive; and then we decide, “enough is enough” by refusing to think and talk about them, we can enter into a whole new realm of freedom. And, in that new place, the past no longer has the power to rob us. What happened to us that caused us so much heartache can’t control our lives anymore. We also get to experience our loving Dad giving us a new beginning in His “future and hope” for us, just as He encourages us will happen in these deeply reassuring words:

“Oh, my beloved child,

Please come and be with Me, whenever you are having a hard time.

I promise you as your very real Dad that each time you do, not only will you be in My presence where you will be helped in very encouraging ways, but how I long to be in your presence.

Whenever you come, for even just a moment at a time, I will comfort you as no one else can. But, as you do, I need you to lay down all the thoughts about yourself, and about your pain and difficulties, and come to just be with Me. Then, as your Father, who loves you more than you could ever hope for or imagine, I will come to be with you. In the places you are still hurting, I can heal you, and it won’t take years and years. Instead, with each touch of My kind love upon you, you can go from healing to healing.

Each time you come to be close to Me, I also promise I will refresh your weary, broken places so that when you turn and face your life again, you will be amazed. The circumstances may still be exactly the same. But, everything will look different because you have experienced how understanding I am about how you are feeling.

So, I say to you, please come often into My presence. As you do, I will revive My purpose for you that you have been feeling discouraged about, wondering if it will ever happen. In that closeness with Me, you will be strengthened because I can show you what I’m doing in your life and in My future and hope I have planned for you. As you bow your heart, your knees, your whole life before Me with humble, repentant brokenness, and as you die to every mindset that is holding you back and defeating you, I am going to do a new thing in your life.

My child, it has already begun.

And, when you awaken each morning, before you do anything else, please want to be with Me. Throughout each day, talk to Me as a dearest friend does with his dearest friend. As you put your head on the pillow each night, fall asleep telling Me you love Me.

But, not in fancy words.

Just in childlike, simple, from the heart, sincere words.

If you wake up in the night feeling troubled, anxious, or afraid, instantly start talking to Me. Begin to think about My presence, and wanting to be close to Me. I will come to be with you. I will come in a heartbeat. You will feel safe and protected by My love for you. You will be able to peacefully fall asleep in My sheltering presence.

To reassure you, I fully understand as your Dad that there will be bumps along the way. That is why you fulfilling My plan for your life is not about you being perfect. I already know, as your Father, that there will be times when you will need My help to be restored to the fullness of all this because of the mistakes you make along the way.

All I ask of you is that you sincerely try to seek Me with a humble heart.

Then, even when you have ‘blown it,’ you will still be one of My servants through whom I will show forth My glory, just like happened to David, and Peter, and Paul.
So please, stay close to Me, no matter what happens in your life.

Please come often to just be with Me.

I will always be here for you, as your Dad.

Your Father, who cares about you more than you could ever possibly hope for or begin to imagine.”

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