Why does God tell His followers to stop dwelling on the past? Often, we reminisce just to savor the great memories or linger over hurts, perhaps figuring a way we could have avoided them. Aren’t they instructive in some way? Possibly so, if we’re delving back to relive a victory or stave off a defeat, but He doesn’t want us to fixate on yesterday. He has a plan for our lives, and that plan involves pushing forward, opening the door, stepping through, and embracing the challenge. Best of all, He promises to go with us.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NASB): Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.
Isaiah 43:18 (NIV): Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
Luke 9:62 (ESV): Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
WHY DOES GOD spend so much energy telling us not to dwell on the past?
Why does He encourage us, even command us, throughout Scripture, to focus on the “new things,” where He wants us to go?
This is a very important issue for me, and one where I often come up short … very short … very often.
I constantly revisit the past and wonder how I could have handled events better if I had known the Lord then. Of course, I would have been a different person, with a different mind set, a different heart, and with different priorities.
Yet God exhorts me to put those idle speculations aside and live the life He is offering me, as His child, to serve the Kingdom and to be a blessing to those He places in my path.
THE ISSUE HERE is clear: It is about our sin, God’s willingness to forgive our sin, and our unwillingness to forgive ourselves.
We hold onto the moment, lamenting lost opportunities, wrong paths taken, selfish actions, bad decisions. We see the evil in our hearts play itself out in our lives, and we long to rewrite the story.
God tells us He has already rewritten the story, and if we would drop the baggage of the past, we could join Him in this new adventure He has planned for us.
- Solomon tells us not to lean on our own understanding but to trust in God’s direction, and He will make our paths straight (Prov. 3:5-6);
- King David informs us that God’s light illuminates the path before us, so we can see where we’re going (Psalms 119:105);
- The apostle Paul reminds us that through Christ, we are crucified to our sinful pasts, and with Him living in our hearts, we are open to the challenges and adventures that God has waiting for us (Gals. 2:20);
- The Lord Jesus admonishes us by saying those who put their hand to the plow and keep looking back, not forward, are “not fit” for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62 NLT).
SOME MIGHT SAY if we ignore the past, we’ll fail to learn from it. That may well be true, but God is pointing out the difference between learning from our errors and dwelling on them.
Once He has forgiven us, we need to leave the spot of sin and not build memorials to our past. Otherwise, we’re saying that Christ’s work on the Cross was not sufficient to complete God’s plan, when God said, quite emphatically, that it was sufficient.
He wants us to believe that and embrace it. Remember, Jesus told us that He came to give us life “abundantly” — a full-throttle life experience full of community with Him and each other (John 10:10). When we dwell in the past, God tells us, we’re demonstrating our lack of faith in His good provision.
INSTEAD OF FOCUSING on the past, God exhorts us to focus on the future … because that’s where He longs to take us.
Jesus said God is constantly working (John 5:17), and He wants us to join Him in that effort to spread the Good News to everyone.
Here are a few of His reminders:
- Isaiah 43:19 (CSB): “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
- Philippians 3:13 (NLT): No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.
- Philippians 3:14 (NKJV): I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
TODAY’S POST has a few more Scripture citations than I usually use beyond the text source. While each one individually has value, together, they are powerful.
Savor the message. Feel the love. Claim the blessing.
Remember: Scripture is God talking.
To you and me.
Two more verses to meditate on:
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV): Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Gen. 19:26 (NIV): But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Dear Lord, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for bringing to our attention our tendency to dwell on past sins and wishing we could *redo* the past, to avoid making the bad decisions our sinful natures led us to make, that brought ruin and heartache to our lives. We cannot rewrite the script so as to benefit from wiser decisions, but through Your love and grace, You have given us each day a new beginning. Help us, O Lord, to believe so fully in Your promises for our lives that we eagerly abandon the tendency to look back on our sins and hold onto the plow as it moves forward. Lord, we want to be fit for the Kingdom, and we thank You for giving us that opportunity! We lift this prayer in the majestic name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN