PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In one of the earliest stories of the Bible, Lot and his family were escaping the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were given one instruction: don’t look back. Yet, Lot’s wife did turn to look back and she was turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:1-29).
The Bible often says we shouldn’t look back. A few examples: Isaiah 43:18-19a, “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?“ (ESV).
Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 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” (ESV).
And even Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62b ESV).
God wants us to reflect on the now and the future because this is when we can make changes! We can’t make changes to the past!
Yet, even though we are told not to look back, we are also told to remember (Psalm 77:11; Psalm 78:5-7; Psalm 143:5, to name a few). And there is a difference. Looking back can mean longing for the past, or wallowing in the past, berating ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made.
But remembering gives us an opportunity to learn. After all, if we don’t remember our past, we don’t learn from it. The whole Bible is comprised of stories from the past that we can learn from today. It’s full of the wonderful things God has done and gives us the foundation of the hope that He will do them again. Remembering His past deeds reminds us of His future promises.
And we remember so we don’t forget. That’s something God asked of the Israelites even when He rescued them from Egypt. The celebration of Passover is the remembrance of God’s goodness when He passed over the homes that were marked with the protective blood of the lamb, sparing the firstborns of the household (Exodus 12:21-28).
Despite the clear line between wallowing in the past and remembering God’s blessings, for many of us, wallowing seems easier. We remember with longing our glory days when things seemed easier. We fail to take into account that the difficult seasons of our past may have been situations God allowed to prepare us for a future He has planned for us. What can we say we learned from our pasts? Taking the time to reflect on blessings in past pain is humbling and important, and for many of us—it’s very difficult.
But when we do—we find that God continues to be good and faithful. When we prayerfully consider how our pasts have prepared us for where we are today, we can readily trust Him with our tomorrows. He is, was, and will always be faithful.
Today, as you pray, thank God for the lessons we can learn from history, including our personal history, and the way His goodness is always at work. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you reflect in a way to learn, instead of looking back with regrets. Trust in His promise to forgive our pasts when we confess. Pray that you will be equipped to commit your heart to learn from the past as you focus on the now and the future.