The hardest thing to do in life is look forward, focus on the path that is ever before us. The easiest thing to do in life is look behind us, to dwell on the “what if’s” or languish in the golden moments. Isn’t it funny how God put our eyes in the front of head rather in the rear? In reality the hardest thing to do in life is let go of the past, rather it was good or bad. The good times are like a bad addictive drug that makes your soul crave for that high. Your fear is that you may never achieve such moments, or will never find an adequate substitute. A great example of this is the former star athelete who longs for those glory days.  He tries to relieve it  through his children, but it is hollow and empty and leaves him even the more unhappy and discontent. The bad times are equally gripping. They bubble up like bad dreams and haunt our memories, locking us in a eddy that consumes our every thought and action. This psychosis is manifested by crippling us both mentally and physically. It brings about added stress and anxiety which in turn can cause all kind of physical ailments such as heart disease, kidney and liver failure, indigestion, etc.  Perhaps we can better understand the Great Physicians diagnosis of the problem Mark 2:17  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Letting go of my past, good or bad, is a difficult task, but the Good Doctor has said, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”Lk.21:28

Paul had the same difficulties and articulated them best in his Philippians letter.  If anybody should have a right to long for the past, someone persecuted and thrown into prison as was Paul’s case, should. I can’t even began to understand the stress and trauma of one being incarcerated.  The gloom of each day in a dark and damp cell.  The humility and loneliness that must accompany such times would all but beg to go back and live in a happier or gratifying moment.  Paul even ponders his former life Php 3:5-6  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;   as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Paul had a great thing going and in some way his voice in this verse seems to boast of his former self, but looking back is in the past and what lies ahead is worth his suffering now. It may have been glorious and satisfying to his mind, but Paul understood that it was in his past, and that for the sake of Christ he now regarded his glorious past as dung. The past, good or bad keeps us from the true focus of life and that is to follow Christ. Water in a stream does not fulfill it’s purpose if it gets caught in pool to stagnate. Water must move down the stream, and down the river into the sea to be recycled  Like water moving down the stream, so should our lives be in the service of our Master, to do His good will and pleasure and serve Him by forever moving forward. Paul states a little further along Php 3:13-14  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,   I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You see! It wasn’t easy for Paul to do it either, but he did. He had to work on it daily, straining, pressing, a steady climb upwards. All these verbs express how hard it is, but with Christ it can be done. (Phil.4:13)

Paul didn’t just have a glorious past to forget about, he also had a terrible and frightful past that clung to him. When you hurt other humans, that hurt you inflicted stays with you. I believe in some way the thorn in Paul’s flesh was his guilt of committing such heinous crimes against Christians. In 2 Cor.12:7-9, Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn, but God denied him. God’s answer: The gift of my Son is suffiencient. That’s God’s response to us as well; forget you past by relying on My gift to you, the forgiveness of your past through my Son. It turns out the healing power of Jesus didn’t end with His death on the cross, it’s still happening today. By looking forward to Him and focusing on Him each day, I too can receive this healing power, the power over the crippling and degenerative guilt of my past.  I only have the promise of this day so make it count and quit trying to put yesterdays torn out calendar page back into the book.

 

Darryl Fuller