We hear mixed messages about looking back at our past. Some voices warn against it.
Remember the story about Lot and his family? Angel voices urged them not to look back as they fled Sodom before God destroyed it. “Run for your lives!,” they cried. “Do not stop anywhere in the valley. And don’t look back!” Unfortunately, Mrs. Lot didn’t listen. Things didn’t go well for her when she looked back with longing for her friends, home, material possessions, and memories of days gone by despite God’s utter distaste for all things Sodom (Genesis 19:17-26).
Then there’s the apostle Paul’s voice. He wrote, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). By “forgetting,” he meant he refused to dwell on the person he was and the atrocities he’d committed before he encountered Jesus. This freed him to focus on what God was doing in and through him in the present, and to anticipate the glorious future promised him. Good move.
Like Lot’s wife, we don’t fare well if we look back wistfully on a past that grieved God. Like Paul, we gain nothing by dwelling on who we used to be and the sins we committed before choosing to follow Jesus. But then comes a third voice, and this one deserves our attention.
The psalmist wrote, “I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. I think about how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings” (Psalm 63:6-7).
This voice belongs to David. He intentionally looked back, focusing his thoughts on God’s faithfulness to him. Perhaps he recalled how God helped him kill a lion and a bear while he watched his father’s flocks. Maybe he recalled the day God enabled him to topple Goliath with one well-aimed stone. No doubt he thought about how God protected him from Saul and his henchmen.
Like David, we ought to pursue the practice of looking back on God’s faithfulness to us. Remembering His provision instills faith to believe He’ll provide again. Recalling His sovereignty brings confidence that He still reigns over every detail of our lives. Courage replaces fear. Calm replaces anxiety. I’ve learned this from personal experience.
Later this month we’ll celebrate two years since moving onto our sailboat. I recall the months prior listening to the voices of boat brokers far and wide. They all said there was a seven-year wait list to find live-aboard moorage in the Vancouver area. Gene and I believed God was leading us to make this transition, so we had to keep moving forward in faith, trusting Him to provide a place for us to live.
If I’d focused solely on the odds of finding live-aboard moorage, I would have been scared silly to make this transition. I focused instead on the ways in which we’d seen God do the impossible for us in the past, and fear turned to a sense of wild anticipation. How’s He gonna do it? I wondered.
Looking back has its place and benefits. Why not make it a part of your daily routine? Spend a few minutes recalling one of God’s kindnesses toward you, one answered prayer, one act of provision. Before long, your voice will sound like David’s when he said, “I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7)
#bgbg2 #RememberingGodsFaithfulness #LookingBack