Buddy is distracted by something behind him, so he stopped during our walk, planted his feet and didn’t move forward.
Over the past few years I’ve heard several women in church claim that they cannot, or are having difficulty, forgiving someone. These women I’ve met rarely, if ever smile, and appear to be unhappy most of the time. One woman even hindered her husband’s ministry.
I have a saying: When you keep looking behind you, you’ll trip over your future. It’s difficult to walk forward successfully when you’re looking behind all the time.
I’m not writing this to condemn anyone. I certainly know how difficult it is to forgive; there’s not anyone I know of, including myself, who hasn’t been harmed by someone in life to one degree or another.
What I want to share is how I have been able, with the help of the power of Jesus Christ, to forgive those who’ve done me harm. Memorizing these verses below has been very helpful to me. (I’d also like to state that I’m not a trained psychologist or therapist. This works for me. I’m not advocating going off any medication a trained professional has prescribed for you.)
1. “Finally…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, DWELL on these things.”–Philippians 4:8
We cannot control what thoughts pop into our heads. But we can control what we choose to dwell on. Reject movies replaying the past. You’re only allowing the other person to continue to harm you by replaying those hurtful images. If an angry, vengeful, distressing, or hateful thought pops into your head, you have the choice to dwell on it or cut it short. Ask the Lord to help you identify wrong thoughts and assist you in redirecting your mind toward healthier thoughts and images. This is a process. Don’t become discouraged when you find you’ve been dwelling on something for several minutes or more. A lifetime of bad habits isn’t broken quickly. It may take months or years to learn to break bad thoughts and redirect your thinking. After years of practice, I still find myself sometimes running too long with negative thoughts. When you’ve discovered you’ve dwelt on something too long, the enemy will say, “See, it doesn’t work after all” or “You’re a failure. You cannot do this.” No, you cannot on your own but
“I can do all things through Him (Christ) Who strengthens me.”–Philippians 4:13
Ask Jesus to assist you. Remember that “nature abhors a vacuum”. You have to replace those thoughts with something else.
2. “but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”–Philippians 3:13
Apostle Paul could never have been an effective minister of the Gospel if he’d been dwelling on his past history of persecuting Christians, hunting them down and handing them over to be jailed and/or killed before his conversion. He refused to dwell on his past and focused on his mission of bringing the news of salvation and building up the church. For me, dwelling on the past only makes me feel angry or hurt or discouraged. When in these emotional states, I cannot feel happy and energized and creative. I’m only permitting myself to be victimized again. And I refuse to allow that person to continue to hurt me while they’re likely enjoying life and not even giving me a second thought. It’s illogical.
“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new,”–Isaiah 43:18
Whatever God commands us to do is for our good. Please ask him for the faith to trust Him with your future.
3. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered nor come to mind.”–Isaiah 65:17
This verse was my breakthrough verse for me. If you’ve ever seen a version of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, then you’re familiar with Marley’s ghost. As a ghost, he dragged his sins behind him as locks and heavy chests linked to ponderous chains wound about his body. I picture the hurtful events in my life like those heavy chests. When I dwell on the past, I’m chained to the past, dragging a big heavy weight through life.
Or, I often picture the past hurts like heavy suitcases I’m holding onto and carrying around in each hand, weighing me down and making it difficult to walk forward. If I truly believe I have a future in Heaven and eternal life with Jesus Christ, by faith I can drop those suitcases or cut that heavy chain, because, if I’m not going to remember this life in the future, why drag it around with me now? Why allow myself to be weighed down by the past when it’s only temporary anyway?
That’s not logical.
I know emotions aren’t logical. But often, if I’m feeling despair or self-pity, what am I dwelling? My emotions are reacting to what I’m thinking about.
4. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:44
I’ve found this very helpful. I cannot hate someone if I’m praying for their soul or asking God to help them make better choices. It’s NOT helpful if you’re asking God to smite them or harm them in some fashion. I love what one of my non-believing friends said, “It takes too much energy to hate my ex-boyfriend.”
Again, note the verse above is a command by Christ and not a suggestion. Please think about that.
“Love never fails,”–Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:8
I’m not saying it’s easy to forget the past. But don’t be Marley’s ghost. Ask God for the faith to walk forward, “forgetting what lies behind.”
And please be patient with yourself. The freedom you’ll discover is worth it.
*All Scripture verses are from the NASB version.