Here are 4 signs God is telling you to stop looking back.
1. If You Are Stuck at a Dead-End Path Because You Keep Focusing on Your Past Failures, This Is a Sign God Is Telling You to Stop Looking Back
Our minds are not like a security camera that just records endless hours of everything that happens in its view. No, when we look back, we don’t remember everything in great detail. All we remember are the most memorable parts about our past.
This means that what we often remember the most about our past is our own mistakes and sins. If you made one huge mistake 10 years ago, you will remember almost nothing about your life that year except that one big mistake you made. When our minds get fixated on our own failures, we end up stuck in past moments as the world around us keeps speeding by.
It’s like driving car while only focusing on your rearview mirror. If all you do is focus on your rearview mirror as you drive you are either going to get into an accident or simply stop your car because you know you can’t see what is ahead of you because you are so focused on what is behind you. My point is, when we focus on our failures in the past it’s like getting stuck on a dead-end road. Eventually we have to take our eyes off the past or we will never be able to move forward into the new life God has for us now.
To do this, we have to remember the power of the gospel. The solution to our past sins is not to minimize them. The key to freedom is to depend on God’s grace alone. Notice the powerful words spoken in Colossians 1:12-14. It states:
. . . giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
If we depend on our own good works and our past efforts, we really are disqualified. But when we depend on Christ’s righteousness and trade in our imperfect pasts for his perfect past, we are truly “qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
2. If You Are Remembering All the Bad in Your Past Rather Than Remembering All the Lessons God Taught You Through that Past, This Is a Sign God Is Telling You to Stop Looking Back
Only God is truly able to “forget” our past sins as Isaiah 43:25 states. But when God forgets our sins he does not forget in the sense that he ignores the traumas we put ourselves through. God knows everything you’ve ever been through; he is sensitive to your current weaknesses because he knows your past painful experiences. So he does not “forget” in that sense. He forgets our sins in the sense that he no longer holds them against us. He no longer remembers the debts we once had against him because Jesus paid it all.
Likewise, we will never be able to literally forget our past mistakes. What happened in our pasts cannot be forgotten because you cannot change the past. But when we are transformed through the gospel, we can see our pasts through different eyes. Instead of looking back and our past and remembering all our failures, we must learn to look back only to remember the lessons God taught us through those painful experiences and to remember the power of God’s grace to change us. Notice what Paul said in Philippians 3:12-16. It reads:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
Paul points out the need to be simultaneously “forgetting what lies behind” while also telling us to “hold true to what we have attained.” This means that when we remember the past we no longer need to dwell on our failures but we can now dwell on the faithfulness of Christ that saved us and delivered us out of that past.
Paul often reminded himself and his readers about the sins of his past, but he did not do this to highlight his failures but rather to highlight the faithfulness of God. In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 he states:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
Paul accepts his past but notice he also accepts God’s grace that changes the outcome of his past. Likewise, we can’t change what we’ve done, but we can change how we see ourselves because of what Christ has done. Paul is basically saying, “I can’t deny my sins in the past, but I also cannot deny the power of God’s grace in my present.”
May we too no longer look back in fear and shame but rather may we look back with gratitude for the grace of God which has completely changed us from who we once were.
3. If You Are Looking at the Hurtful People in Your Past So Much You Are Missing Out on the Godly People the Lord Wants You to See in Your Present, This Is a Sign God Is Telling You to Stop Looking Back
Many times we get stuck looking back into the past not because of our actions but because of the actions of another. After we are deeply hurt by someone, it is healthy to go through a season of processing and healing as we look back on what happened to us. If we try to move on too quickly, we end up minimizing the sins of others and actually prolonging our process of moving on.
But eventually we have to make the choice to forgive, accepting that our feelings will follow along later. Eventually we have to realize that if we keep clinging to what others did to us in the past, all we are doing is allowing them to keep controlling us. You will gain your power back once you do the one thing that takes the most strength to do – forgive. God will restore what they took from you by strengthening you to forgive them by his grace.
One of the most practical ways to stop focusing on people in the past who hurt us is to put time and energy into forming new healthy relationships in the present. Notice what Paul said in Philippians 3:17-19. It states:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
Paul says there are two types of people in the world. Those who follow Christ and those who don’t. We are to serve and love both groups, but when it comes to who we build relationships with and who we depend on, we must not look to the world but we must keep our eyes focused “on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” No human besides Jesus is perfect, but there are those who seek to live like Jesus and those who don’t. We must stop looking back at those who don’t so we will not miss out on the new relationships we can have with those who do love Jesus.
4. If Your Gaze Is So Focused on the “Glory Days” in Your Past that You Are Missing Out on the Glory of Christ in Your Present, This Is a Sign God Is Telling You to Stop Looking Back
All sin occurs when we take a good thing and use it in a bad way. Anything good can turn into something bad when we use it improperly. Even good things in our past can actually become harmful to us in the present if we start idolizing that past.
To cling to the past, hoping to recreate it in the future, is to miss God’s plan for you in the present. Don’t get stuck looking back at the “glory days” of some past relationship or some past season that you feel you can never recreate. The truth is you really can’t, nor should you try. Let the past be the past and embrace the glory of Christ in your present. God is always doing a new thing, but we will miss it if we are clinging to the good things we experienced previously. Hebrews 1:1-3 states:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
The religious pharisees of Jesus’s time on earth missed the very Son of God because they were too busy clinging to their old ways. May we not make the same mistake in our lives.
Remember: To cling to the past, hoping to recreate it in the future, is to miss God’s plan for you in the present. May we never idolize “the glory days” in the past and thus miss the glory of Christ shining all around us right now.
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