What to Do with Your Past

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

Can you forget the past? Clearly that is what God said through Isaiah. We are not to “remember the former things or consider the things of old.” This sounds plainly impossible because we have become so grindingly accustomed to remembering the former things and considering the things of old. We can’t imagine a different way of thinking about sins, hurts, resentments, failures, etc.

Forgetting the past sounds attractive. We all have things we would rather forget. In Greek mythology one of the five rivers running through Hades was Lethe. One drink from Lethe erased all bad memories. Is that what you want? Is that what God really wants?

Of course not. So what does God want you to do with a bad past?

While we may not be humanly capable of erasing failures from memory, we certainly must accept that God does not judge us based on our failures. In a sense, He does forget them. Your failures have no bearing on God’s regard for you. That’s grace.

Thinking of God’s view of our past opens up a new way for us to regard a checkered past. I honestly cannot forget my failures, but I can choose to regard them as valuable memories. Remembering how I failed can be an important way to avoid similar failures in the future. I’ve learned from my own bad mistakes, and it’s good for me to remember those lessons.

More importantly I must live forgiven. Some days I need to claim that grace more than others. The past rises up and dark thoughts cloud my mind and obscure God’s presence. Living forgiven is an important part of abundant life. It means that I accept my past and trust God with it. My past informs who I am, but it does not completely define me. God does that, and having truly forgiven me He is free to make me anything He wants in the present.

We are fond of saying we are the present result of our past decisions and actions. While true to an extent, that does not factor in God’s energetic grace. He redeems us. He frees us from our past in some very important ways. According to Isaiah, God is doing a new thing. God is. Not me. God’s creativity and newness is far beyond my imagination. I can give Him the rubble of my past and trust Him to build a promising future.

For my part, I simply must stop allowing the past to steal the present. Wishing for a different past does not alter my present in any beneficial way. In fact, my present will get a whole lot easier when I stop wishing for a different past.

I live only in the present, and God is mainly a God of the present moment. That is where He encounters you right now. This very moment God is with you, in you, around you. Right now. The Bible repeatedly teaches us not to worry about the past or the future. The present is where you meet God.

So don’t let a bad past have any bearing on today. You are a son or daughter of God, and you will meet this day as befits one of His children! Walk with confidence and trust. God will make a way for you through the wilderness today.


Dr. Terry Ellis

June 1, 2014