Have you ever had a something to occur in your life that you just couldn’t seem to get over? It could be anything from an argument to a lost relationship or even worse the death of a loved one. Most of the time, when these scenarios play over and over in our minds it is because they ended suddenly and without resolution. It would be awesome if life were like a sitcom where every challenge we face can be neatly packed and resolved in 30 minutes time or less; unfortunately, life isn’t that tidy! Many times we are left with no answers to our questions. Situations often feel unfinished and unresolved. We might even have words that we feel still need to be said but for whatever reason, there is no outlet.
I personally hate scenarios like this because I am a natural over-analyzer! I have propensity for examining every side of the story to see where problems occurred and why. In the past when I’ve done this, I’ve noticed that all the emotions behind the situation start to come back as if I were experiencing them all over again; the sadness, the anger, the disappointment. While completely in the past, the emotions are all experienced over and over again in the mind. This is not good for our minds, bodies or spirit. Reflecting in this way can affect our health and attitude. This process can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts. I’ve personally fought hard to stop this cycle and have had some success but today was more challenging. I was driving to church and my mind began to wonder into the past. Just as I was beginning to experience the feelings again, I heard the words “remember Lot’s wife”.
Lot, a character in the book of Genesis, lived in a city that was destined to be completely destroyed for its wickedness. Because Lot was of good character and found favor with God, he and his family were spared from the destruction. An angel came to give him instructions as to how to get his family out. One of the instructions that the angel gave was for none of them to look back at the city to see the destruction. Keeping in mind that they were human, it’s not surprise that Lot’s wife didn’t quite follow the instructions; she looked back. When she looked back, she was instantly changed into a pillar of salt; forever stuck gazing at the destruction of her past life. This story has perplexed me for a long time until today.
As I pondered the folly Lot’s wife that led to her demise, I realized that she, like so many of us, became prey to the peril of focusing on the past. Like her, when we focus our gaze too long on the past we become stuck; not able to move forward and definitely not able to go backwards. What we see when we look back is the destruction of our dreams, our hopes and our perceived future. To make matter worse, there is nothing that can cause a heart to become hardened and bitter faster than focusing on the past.
The challenge is that the past holds a sense of security and predictability that the future does not. We know the past and if given the opportunity, we can fix it or at least that’s what we think! There’s an old saying that “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t”. This is a completely bogus statement! Who wants to deal with a devil in the first place? The truth is that while the future holds lots of uncertainty, it has the greatest capacity for the possibility of change for the better. Even if no movement or physical change happens, letting go of the past and no longer looking back at it, can change the future! We must learn to experience the feelings, the sadness, anger even disappointment but not hold on to it forever.
How do we focus on the future when we have no true idea what it will look like? We start with hope. Hope for something better than what has been before. Then we build on it with faith. Faith that there is good in the world and that good is for us! We hold to faith that God is for us and not against us. With this knowledge we can begin to understand that no change in our lives was ever designed to cause us pain, make us bitter or hold us hostage to the past. With this knowledge we can begin to live in gratitude for all things in our life. Gratitude is what opens the door for better days ahead.
If you are struggling with revisiting the past, make a conscious effort to become aware of when you’re doing it. Then make another conscious effort to shift your focus to something else. Exercise, read a book, play with your children but do something to bring this shift about. If you’re alone and too depressed to get up, simply start with tapping. Take your finger and tap it on the tip of your nose, cheeks or even your ear. This technique has an amazing ability to shift your energy. Yes, I’ve tried it, it works! Remember, life is designed to move us forward, embrace that energy and let it move you from the past into the future. Be blessed!