Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I am sure there are things in the past that you would like to change. I certainly do, and I suspect everyone would like to. Things we have said to someone we love that we should never have said. Words can have such a strong impact, and can very easily destroy relationships. Actions also can have a negative impact, and in one split second we can ruin somebody’s life.
Because we’re human, we all have regrets—about things we did or said or people that we hurt. And because we’re human, we all wish we could go back and change some things. Because we are human, we are imperfect. Because we are human, we will have failures. And because we are human, we can’t change the past.
And while that may be a source of frustration to us in our everyday lives, the truth is, most of us wouldn’t want to. Our past—even our failures—are too important, because they help shape who we are today. We can’t change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past when we learn from it to shape the present.
It’s not easy to forgive ourselves our failures. And it’s even more difficult to forgive others. C.S. Lewis as a boy had a school teacher who was very tough and was a sadist. Lewis hated the teacher most of his life and carried the burden of his memory until later in life he suddenly realised he had forgiven him, this cruel schoolmaster who made life so hard. God had taken away the memory of that experience, and C.S. Lewis did not realise God’s intervention.
If you keep going over in your mind the wrongs you did in the past, it really is like trying to drive somewhere but never taking your car out of reverse. You can’t make any forward progress.
Some things we did in the past hurt other people. Some things hurt only ourselves. Sometimes they hurt us and lots of other people around us, and those are the most painful regrets of all. But a life that constantly dwells on the past is not a productive life. It’s a stuck life. It’s a life that tries to right wrongs with self-punishment, and that never works—we call that guilt.
I believe there is only one answer to this problem of how do I change the past which I regret. Ask forgiveness then move on.
It’s easy to get caught up in the past
It’s hard to ask other people to forgive us when we’ve hurt them, but usually that’s the only way to move on. If we apologise and they refuse to forgive us, then the responsibility shifts from us to them. We’ve done all we can.
You should know that some people withhold their forgiveness, as a way of getting even. But that hurts them, like a sore that never heals. When it comes down to it, sometimes you keep telling yourself you’re over it but the negative thinking keeps creeping back into your life. You need to fully realise that the only person you’re hurting is yourself.
Let’s say you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. You may think about this day and night until you can’t take it anymore, and you have to seek this person out to apologise. The person might not even remember what happened, or they may just accept your apology. The point is you suffered with negative thoughts until you sought forgiveness.
Maybe it’s too late to apologise for something you’re ashamed of, or the other person has died, or it would only make things worse. That happens, and there’s not much we can do about it. It’s easy to get caught up in the past. Nobody’s perfect and, no matter how hard you try, you’ll still continue to make mistakes. It’s how you handle the mistakes, yours and another’s, that will make the true difference in your life.
If you’ve made a mistake or suffered a tragedy in the recent past, don’t allow the tragedy to replay in your head over and over. You’ll continue to relive the negative feelings as if you were continually going through the tragedy. No-one deserves this! Instead, you can do one or two things, preferably both; you can actively work on correcting your mistake, or you can change the decisions you made about what happened. What happened can not be changed but how you feel about what happened can be changed. But you can control your feelings. Inviting Jesus Christ into your life as Lord and Saviour is a good step—the best thing you can do.
It’s time to let go and give the past to God
We need to live life to its fullest each day. If we spend each day in sorrow remembering what was in our past experiences, that we no longer have, we soon find ourselves stuck. We find ourselves unable to move forward.
I believe that God has wonderful things in store for those who dare to trust him. Don’t look for God in the shadows of the past, he is not there. In Philippians 3:13 Paul states this: “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”
We must accept things we can’t change, and we must realise that it’s time to let go and give the past to God. Until we are willing to close the door to the past, God is unable to fully open a door to our future. Today, if you are stuck, close your eyes. Imagine that God put a shell in your hand and that the shell is empty. The shell contained something from your past that you held dear, but now it’s empty. Yet every day you are carrying around one or more empty shells.
Picture yourself walking with Jesus and throwing away those empty shells, once and for all! Now Jesus picks you up, and sets you on a new path. The path has seeds of his promises strewn on it! You are free, and excited to see which one of the ‘new’ seeds will bloom in your life and take root! You run down the path, feeling lighter and free at last from the past!!
PRAYER: Father, thank you for all experiences in life, the good and the bad! In bad times we grow the most, and come the closest to you! Help us to accept the good and the bad in life, and help us to let go of things that are empty shells! We look forward today to seeing the ‘seeds’ of new things in our lives and watching them grow into something beautiful! Amen