Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Dick Innes is the founder of ACTS International, a great organisation – you may have read some of their material. In one article, he talks about the statement, “Don’t let your past determine your future”. He says:
After my father died, quite a few years ago, having come from a very dysfunctional family background, I realised that I still had some unfinished business with him and, as I obviously couldn’t talk to him in person, I decided to visit his gravesite. I took a pen and notebook with me so I could write about my feelings.
I visualised in my mind’s eye that my father was still alive and wrote down the question, If you were still living today, Dad, what advice would you give me? I recall that three things came to my mind, but the only word of advice I can remember was this: Don’t let your past determine your future. That’s great advice that I have never forgotten and have shared with many a person.
I have taught classes on divorce and recovery for quite a few years now and note that far too many divorcees primarily blame their former spouse for the failure of their marriage. Unfortunately, as long as they continue to play the blame-game they will ‘be lame’. They need to recognise their part in the failed relationship, acknowledging what attracted them to their former partner. Then, instead of condemning, they need to resolve their issues to move forwards in their personal growth. In this way, they are not allowing their past to control them.
Don’t let your past control your future
Furthermore, in my work with people, I have also discovered that many blame other failures in life on the fact that they came from a dysfunctional home life, or what others did to hurt them. The reality is that our past can make us or break us. The decision regarding which way to go is up to each individual. It will only determine our future if we allow it to do so.
Regardless of one’s background and past experiences, there is always hope for those who refuse to allow their past to control their future. For example, in his book, Confidence, Alan Loy McGinnis talks about a famous study published in a book entitled Cradles of Eminence, written by Victor and Mildred Goertzel, in which the family background of 300 highly successful people were studied.
Many of the people in the study were well-known personalities including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi and Einstein—all of whom were brilliant in their field of expertise.
The results of this study are both surprising and very encouraging for those of us who may have come from a less than desirable family background and home life, For example:
- Three-quarters of the children were troubled by poverty, a broken home, or by rejecting, over-possessive or dominating parents.
- Seventy-four of the 85 writers of fiction or drama and 10 of the 20 poets came from homes where they saw tense psychological drama played out by their parents.
- Physical handicaps, such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs characterised over one-quarter of the sample.
These people may have had more weaknesses and handicaps than many who had a healthy upbringing but lacked confidence. What made the difference? Perhaps, realising they had weaknesses, they compensated for these by excelling in other areas. One man said:
What has influenced my life more than any other single thing has been my stammer. Had I not stammered, I probably would have gone to Cambridge, as my brothers did, perhaps have become a tutor and every now and then published a dreary book about French literature.
This man who stammered until his death was W. Somerset Maugham, a world-renowned author of more than 20 books, 30 plays, and scores of essays and short stories.
Reach forward to what’s ahead
It’s not what we have or don’t have that matters in life but what we do with what we have, and it’s what we do about past painful experiences that counts. We can allow then to embitter us and hold us back, or we can learn through them and, with God’s help, overcome and use them to enrich us. God wants us to acknowledge and resolve past hurts and grow through them. In doing so, we don’t allow our past to determine our future.
Someone has wisely said, It may be true that I have been a victim in the past, but if I remain one, I am now a willing volunteer. No matter what our background is, when we trust our lives daily to God, and work through our past hurts to resolution, we can and do have hope for the future.
It’s up to us what we do about the present. Once we have resolved our past hurts, we can say, as did the Apostle Paul, “But one thing I do: Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Paul also had some kind of a physical problem and prayed three times for God to heal or deliver him from it. But God didn’t heal Paul, and as he wrote, “But he [God] said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Dear God, help me to realise, as an adult, that while I wasn’t responsible for my background, I am totally responsible for what I do about resolving past hurts and for becoming, with your help, the person you have envisioned for me to be. Lead me always on the pathway of truth and responsibility. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Encounter – Issue No 2 2010-05-18
By: Dick Innes