Now God, don’t hold out on me, don’t hold back your passion. Your love and truth are all that keeps me together. When troubles ganged up on me, a mob of sins past counting, I was so swamped by guilt I couldn’t see my way clear. More guilt in my heart than hair on my head, so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out. (Psalm 40:11-12 MSG)
There are many reasons we are drawn into focusing on the past so frequently. Probably the most common is the familiarity we have with our past – it is an easy place to drift into because it had been a former “routine” for us. We hope by focusing on the past, we might just find something worthwhile there which can "benefit" our present. The only issue with this is the fact most of what is in our past really brings us to the point of being overwhelmed in our present - because the past worries and sins coupled with the present worries and sins will give us way too much to deal with! Don't get me wrong - there are indeed benefits to dealing with some of the stuff in our past - like letting go of addictions. Yet, most of what is in our past only produces greater amounts of guilt when we bring those things into our present.
Here's something we need to get our hands around - the problems of yesterday were "created" on a different "level" from where we are today. Trying to relate to them today will likely bring them into focus in a different light. This is how we deal with the past - we bring the things which trouble us from our past into a different light - a different "level" of maturity. We don't try to deal with those things with the same "level" of maturity - we'd be frustrated if we did. This might just be why we continue to deal with the same old stuff over and over again - we never grow, never reach a new "level".
So, how do we get past this level of immaturity which keeps us focused on the past, but without the "resources" to deal successfully with the stuff which needs to be finally and firmly put into the past and left there? There are probably a couple of things we have to realize:
1. God is the best one to help us identify what belongs truly in our past and what has a value or lesson for our present. When we don't take those things from our past to him to see if there is any relationship to our present, we miss out on this important piece. There are things from our past which God uses to improve our present and set us up for success in our future. Breaking bondage to a certain habit is a good example of this. The habit began in the past, built in the past, and is ever-present in the here and now. When God begins to help us identify what lead us into the place of bondage to that life-controlling habit, we begin to let go of those things in our past, focusing on the possibilities in our present, and setting our focus right.
2. God has given us the resources TODAY to deal with what we did not deal with well in the PAST. Today's resources are based on things like our attentiveness to learning from the Word. As we live in the present, taking the Word we receive today, applying it to today's challenges, yesterday's worries and challenges may actually take on a different light. We are beginning to see them from a different "level". Our perspective changes when we focus on today and allow yesterday to no longer define us. When we allow God to take what he gives us today to the point of changing who we are today, we cannot help but see how he puts the stuff of our past into a "right perspective", as well.
3. God wants to be our focus. Whenever we focus on the impossibilities of our past, we exclude him from our focus. We almost make our past our master instead of God. As long as we keep God in the center of our present, he will put our past into perspective. When we allow our past to master us, it makes it almost impossible for us to connect to the grace of God he extends to us. Grace is unmerited favor - we get what we don't deserve. Oftentimes, we let go of the past by embracing the grace we didn't deserve, but which was extended to us in his love. We have a great deal of difficulty with this one as long as we want to bring the past into our present - because God puts the past into the past - his focus is not on what we've done, but on what we are doing. He gives us grace sufficient to "deal" with our past - but it is silly for us to keep seeking grace for what he has already declared to be "erased".
One word before we close today - changing our today doesn't always mean we have to change our yesterday. We allow yesterday to be put into right perspective - grace erasing what we could not. We are limited by what we focus on in our past - it affects who we are. God's hope for us is to live in the present, disallowing the "limitations" of our past to affect our present. We will always be limited by our past - but we can live in limitless grace and hope as long as we keep our focus clearly in the present. Just sayin!