Have you ever had someone say something like this to you? “The past is in the past, move on.” Or maybe, “The old is gone, live in the new.”
Jacob definitely had a past. A past he likely wanted to forget. But, Jacob remembered. Jacob’s past testified to God’s faithfulness. Additionally, Jacob walked with a limp for many years – by my calculations at least 50 years. The limp represented a reminder of Jacob’s past wrestling match with God. The past exists in the present. God used the hardships of Jacob’s past to become the fertile soil for a new man and a new nation. A nation that would remember their past whenever they enjoyed a meal: they did not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon (see Genesis 32:32).
Paul also had a past filled with great promise but overflowing with much pain as he persecuted followers of Jesus. Because of his past, God positioned Paul to be a mighty vessel of evangelism and transformation through the ancient world. Yet, he too lived with a physical malady. He carried with him a “thorn” – a reminder of his humble dependency upon God Almighty. Paul remembered, and this propelled him forward in service of his Savior.
To recognize the past; its impact and influence, is necessary and profitable for growth in the present and the future. To disregard joys, sorrows, celebrations and hardships from the past is to miss the glorious movement and redemptive work of God.
Reflect for a moment on your past. Perhaps consider the highs and lows, the victories and defeats, the pain and pleasure. Remember conversations from yesterday, actions and interactions made in the last few months and memories from years ago. Each of these reside under the sovereign presence of God.
In what ways do you allow the past to speak into your present? How have you grown because of the past, or do you deny the past and shut it out?
Throughout the Bible God exhorts His people to remember. Remember is used over 230 times in the Bible. In the Scriptures, sometimes God remembers and at other times, He exhorts His children to remember. While He is perfect in His recollection, we are not. Many times we want to flee the past. We are often either a forgetful people or a people living in denial.
God instructs us to remember. Remember the Sabbath. Remember the LORD. Remember whose you are. Remember the ways of your ancestors. Remember where you came from. Remember to obey. Remember the prophets. Remember God’s great mercy and love. Remember through the cup and the bread. Remember.
God invites His people to remember. But why?
- When we remember, our spirits are strengthened. By remembering we can see God’s activity in ways we missed in the midst of the event. We witness the movement of God.
- Remembering offers space and opportunity for God to infuse His healing grace into tough circumstances.
- Our trust in God and confidence in His goodness grows strong when we remember.
- God’s character reveals itself through the past—his faithfulness, mercy, presence, peace, and sovereignty fill the moments of former days. We learn more of who God truly is in the midst of the ups and downs of life.
- By remembering, we can spur others on and encourage them when life seems harsh, uncertain, and hopeless. We offer stories of God’s redeeming work and transforming power.
- We testify to God’s abundant grace and kindness when we remember.
Do not fear the past for God is in your story.
It is healthy to acknowledge our stories, colored with both brightness and joy and also darkness and desolation. This promotes authentic living with Jesus, ourselves and others. When we refuse the reality of the lives given us, we accommodate and hide from the past rather than grow, heal and exhibit transparent living. God values authenticity & vulnerability (see Philippians 1:9-11; Romans 12:9-21; Hebrews 4:12-13).
Just like it did for Jacob and Paul, the past leaves a mark. If you’ve ever broken a bone, you likely feel it when the weather changes. If you’ve made a delicious meal, you plan to remake it in the future. If you’ve gotten stung by a bee, you avoid them at all costs. If you visited a beautiful park, you anticipate returning someday. If you’ve experienced trauma, you have a heightened awareness to actions and attitudes connected to it. If you celebrated significant milestones, you encourage others to pursue their dreams as well. The past remains a part of our present.
Consider the marks of the past that impact you today. Have you allowed God’s healing presence to descend into the space and situation?
Remember the joys and celebrations. Offer gratitude to God for His gifts and grace. Remember with the Lord and allow His healing presence to penetrate the darkness, the questions, and confusion of the past. Look for His redeeming companionship offering hope, healing and understanding.
Jesus delights to restore the broken messy aspects of His followers. And, these shards of sorrow create newness and life under His tender care. You are always on God’s mind—“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (Psalm 139:17-18).
Remember and marvel at God’s presence in the past and the present. He faithfully journeys with you.
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.
Judith Hougen. Transformed into Fire: Discovering Your True Identity as God’s Beloved. Grand Rapids, MI. 2009.
Dawn Eden. Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories. Notre Dame, IN. 2016.
Puddles for Prayer: Thank you for praying for upcoming travel and speaking engagements.
Aug.24-Sept.22 – Gary continues his travels oversees for two more weeks.I would be grateful for your prayers for the ministry God has called him to, as well as prayer for peace, protection, healing and growth for me as I serve others at home.
September 25-October 1 – Guatemala City, Guatemala
Please pray for my preparation for an upcoming trip to Guatemala. I will be leading two full-day retreats as well as speaking to multiple groups. Thank you!.