God desires each of us to live in the freedom and joy Jesus purchased for us on the cross. However, we can’t enjoy the Lord’s presence today when we are dwelling in the hurts and regrets of yesterday. To move forward into the abundant life God has prepared for us, we must learn to let go of things we can no longer change.
I frequently visit prisons and have met many men and women who are locked up not just behind physical bars, but also behind the bars of their past. With way too much time on their hands, they replay in their minds over and over again past decisions they can never change.
I have also known people who grieve the loss of a loved one or a relationship and never heal regardless of how much time passes. Grief over the loss of someone they loved is slowing killing them as well! Letting go of the past must happen, however, before God’s purpose for the future can be fulfilled.
In biblical times, there was a prescribed period of mourning to grieve the death of a loved one. It was appropriate to wear mourning clothes and to weep. Sometimes professional mourners were hired to weep and wail for the dead. Mourning was a healthy and necessary way to express grief and also honor the person who had passed away.
In the book of Genesis when Jacob was told his son Joseph was dead, he put on sackcloth, signifying being in a state of mourning. Deuteronomy 21 directs the Israelites to allow a girl taken captive during warfare to shave her head, cut her nails, remove her native clothing, and mourn for a month. But when the time of mourning was over, sackcloth and ashes were exchanged for fresh clothing and a new life in a new land.
Isaiah reminds us that Jesus was sent into the world, “To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning” (Isa. 61:3). The Lord is sympathetic to us when we mourn, but He also knows we must move forward to experience the abundant life He has called us to live!
Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”
But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59–62)
Like Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt after looking back as Sodom and Gomorrah burned, the Lord is telling us that looking back on what we can no longer change brings only death and fruitlessness. While our Lord is the God of the past, present, and future, we can find His presence only as we worship Him in this moment. If our hearts are more focused on our past failures than our present God, we rob ourselves of the life He has for us and our calling to share His life with others.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13–14)
If you suffer with regrets or pain from the past, there is hope for you today. In Christ, you can find peace and healing in this moment and also hope and joy for the future. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Will you receive the comfort He offers? To receive God’s blessings of new life, we must first let go of the old. This can be difficult, but with prayer and encouragement from others, the Lord can free us from whatever keeps us from enjoying this present moment.
Let’s pray and ask God to help us let go of anything that is holding us back. As we entrust our regrets, our losses, and our loved ones to the Lord, we can trust Him to use even our past to bring life!
Father, thank You for being gracious to me in my pain. Help me heal from the wounds of the past so that in the future I may help others heal. I place my sorrows, my losses, and my regrets into Your hands and ask You to use them to bring forth life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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