Don’t Look Back

Have you seen those posts that people share on Facebook about how you have a specific number of weekends until your child is grown so you better make the most of them while you can? Those kinds of posts stress me out! Sometimes they send me spiraling for days as I struggle with anxiety over the past and the future simultaneously, often missing out on the present in the process. It makes me feel like a failure, and it robs me of my joy. Have I done enough for my family? Am I doing enough for them now? How can I make sure I don’t waste any of the weekends I have left? These thoughts keep me up at night. Where do we go when we feel time slipping through our hands? What do we do when we feel we’re not up to the task at hand and we fear for the future? We go to God’s Word. Here’s what The Bible says:

In Philippians 3, Paul says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (verse 13)

In short, we look forward, not backward. We press on.

The failures and shortcomings of the past are just that: the past. If we spend all of our time looking back, we become like Lot’s wife, our spirits dried up and unable to move forward, like a pilar of salt. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to carry the past around with me, always comparing now to then–even the good things. We can remember the past with fondness, but we don’t need to live there. There is no need to mourn the opportunities that have passed. If we’re always looking backward, we can miss out on what God is doing right now. In Ezra 3, while some of the returned exiles were celebrating the fact that they had finally laid the foundation of the second temple and were weeping for joy, others were comparing it to the old temple and weeping over what had been lost. This second temple was not as grand as Solomon’s temple, but it was destined to see greater glory because the Son of God Himself would one day set foot on that very foundation. They missed out on what God was doing because they were pining for the olden days. I don’t want to do that. I want to look forward with hope for the future! Here’s what the Bible says about that:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope…”

Don’t stop there! Keep reading:

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart….”

And what about those regrets, those years “lost”?

“I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

I know that this is one of the most overused and misused verses in the Bible, but be careful not to dismiss its use here. The people of Israel were a sinful bunch. They were always abandoning God to worship idols. Even so, God still loved them. As their loving Father, he disciplined them, but always with the goal that they would be restored to Him. God’s goal has not changed. He longs for you to come to Him and be saved, and He promises to forgive your sins and give you a new life. If you are a Christian, you are a new creation. Your old self and its sins are gone. Even so, every Christian wrestles with their flesh. We will do things that we regret, but the regret itself testifies to the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Praise God, we are not who we were, and the conviction we feel is evidence of the heart change God has promised. This is part of being sanctified and, as Paul said, we must press on. When we sin, we must confess it to the Lord so that our relationship can be restored, but we need not fear for our eternal salvation. That was secured by Christ on the cross. Now nothing can separate us. When we fail, we can learn from it and then turn to God to help us to mend what has been broken, even if it is our fault. We do not need to carry around the burden of regret. We are freed to move forward with joy and expectation. We can feel safe and secure knowing that God’s intention is not to harm us, but to give us a hope and a future. However, that future may not turn out to be what we expect. The “welfare” in this verse, sometimes translated as “prosperity,” is not speaking of material or temporal things. This is spiritual prosperity. This is peace that reaches beyond our circumstances because it is grounded in Christ. God is not saying to us that He will restore to us all the stuff that we’ve lost and give us much more stuff. This isn’t about worldly possessions. What He is saying is that He will give us a desire for better things, He will provide those better things, and He will give us a heart that rejoices in them. So, we can leave the future in His perfectly good and powerfully capable hands. Our concern is to be ready to trust and obey in the present.

So what does this have to do with that Facebook post? When I live my life according to God’s Word, I can run to him with my regrets and worries about that limited number of weekends. I can lay them at His feet and trust that wherever I am insufficient, He is all in all. I can release the burden. I don’t have to look back with longing on the baby faces of my children until I cry, and I don’t need to sit around worrying about the future until I’m in hysterics. That’s not going to add any extra weekends to the count. Instead, I’m going to praise God for what has been, and I’m going to trust Him with what is to come so that I can enjoy my children now. Each new age is an opportunity to know them better. I’m going to celebrate their personalities and their humor. I’m going to marvel at God as He works in their hearts. To God be the glory!

Don’t be afraid, dear friends. Be bold and run to Him who is able to do far more than we could ever hope or imagine. Release to Him your past, trust Him with your future, and enjoy Him in the present.

-Sarah B.

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