Looking Back So I Can Move Forward

The Light Behind Us photo by Cheryl ThompsonI swallowed hard when I saw this picture, posted on Facebook by my friend, Cheryl. My chest tightened. There was no way she could know this random moment caught on film represented the hardest moments in my spiritual journey.

 

 

 

Most people would say it’s wiser to press-on, full-steam ahead, and never look back. Many people believe it’s best to try to forget what’s behind us, declaring the past doesn’t define us so it’s futile to bring it up. Why dig up old skeletons so people can judge?

 

Over the years, I’ve discovered that many of those excuses stem from fear, shame, or denial.

 

There’s a huge difference between dwelling in the past and using the past to give God glory when we proclaim we’re no longer where He brought us from.

 

Like my friend realized when she decided to snap this picture, there is beauty piercing through the darkness we’re leaving behind.

 

The more we realize our value is in Christ alone and the more we trust His sovereign plan, the more we can accept that what’s behind us can fuel our hope and faith for the difficult twists and turns that may surprise us on the road ahead.

 

When everything around me feels dark, it helps me to think back on what God has already done in my life, in the lives of others, and in the Bible.

 

My faith is strengthened by testimonies.

 

There are many moments in my past I’m not proud of. Hurtful things that happened to me that I wish I could forget. Horrible things I’ve done that I would like to keep hidden. Things I’ve said that I know can never be taken back. Things that people have said to me that I wish I could ignore or totally erase from my memory. Decisions I’ve made, or decisions made by other people, that damaged or even destroyed relationships.

 

I ran away from God and people, trying to escape my past, but never managed to get away from myself.

 

Even before I knew the Lord, He protected me through every single one of those experiences.

 

When I saw Cheryl’s snapshot from the side mirror, I thanked God for rescuing me from myself. He saved me from self-help and self-destruction when He opened my eyes to see His glorious Light of love, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness.

 

Being honest about what God’s done in the past strengthens my faith and frees me to move forward into the unknown of my future, without being limited by fear or shame.

 

A wise psalmist penned these words:

 

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What God is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” (Psalm 77:11-14)

 

Spiritual growth is a lifelong adventure. I’ve still got a long way to go. But I’m no longer afraid to face my past, or to embrace it. I share my testimony in hopes that God will use my experiences to encourage someone to place their hope in Him.

 

No matter how dark or scary our past may seem, a quick glimpse in the mirror will remind us how much God has already done for us. His grace fills our tanks with Spirit-empowered courage to persevere on the road ahead.

 

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Reflections:

 

What has God done for you in the past that can be a light of hope to help someone who is struggling or to help you trust God through your current circumstances?

 

What’s stopping you from sharing your testimony and giving God glory for what He’s done?

 

If you’ve shared your testimony, how have you and others been blessed by your courage to be transparent and honest about your past struggles?

 

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Photo by Cheryl Thompson

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When Instant Gratification Isn’t Gratifying

Cheetos PhotoI opened the refrigerator door. Blink. Blink. Do I really want to go through all the trouble of preparing a healthy snack when there’s a small bag of chips in the pantry, less than 2 feet away?

 

 

It would be easier and quicker if I snagged some Cheetos instead of taking time to pull out lunchmeat, mustard, cheese and an apple.

 

Easy. Quick. Now.

 

Sure one snack would make me feel sluggish and would probably have my stomach growling within the hour, while the other would satisfy my hunger and most likely give me a boost of energy. But at that moment, I wasn’t thinking about future repercussions.

 

I wanted my needs met. I wanted to be satisfied. Immediately.

 

I chomped each crunchy stick, reasoning my choice as acceptable. After all, the package declared Cheetos are “made with real cheese.”

 

Digging into the crinkling bag, I claimed every last crumb of Cheetos dust from the crevices of the silver lining.

 

Orange-stained fingertips and the empty bag only confirmed my suspicion. I could’ve made a better choice. I could’ve listened to that “voice in my head,” the voice that pricked my conscience and warned me that I’ve been down this road before.

 

My instant gratification wasn’t gratifying at all.

 

Somehow I knew, my feeling of dissatisfaction had very little to do with my snack choice.

 

In Acts 5: 1-10, Luke shares the story of Ananias and Sapphira. The Bible says the apostles Peter and John were filled with the Holy Spirit and were speaking “the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31b). God was growing His church. “[There] was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35).

 

The people weren’t forced to give. Their needs weren’t compromised by their generosity.

 

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and held back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles feet” (Acts 5:1-2).

 

The Lord had proven that He would meet the needs of all His people. All they had to do was trust Him with everything and be patient. Still, Ananias and his wife wanted their bag of chips upfront.

 

Easy. Quick. Now.

 

Peter reminded Ananias that the land was his, given to him by God. It was his to give or keep. Yet, instead of admitting that he wasn’t willing to trust everything to God, Ananias lied.

 

Peter said, “You have not lied to men but to God”(Acts 5:4b).

 

Ananias died right there on the spot. His wife came to the apostles a few hours later. She had no idea what had happened to her husband. Peter tried to give her a way out of her self-made pit, but she lied, too.

 

This couple thought they could deceive God. They took what they felt they deserved, what they needed to gratify their immediate desires, and held back from the Lord.

 

Maybe they were greedy. Maybe they were afraid God wouldn’t meet their personal needs, even though they witnessed His amazing provision in the lives of all the believers in their congregation.

 

Regardless of their reasons, Ananias and Sapphira took the easy route, the sure thing, the self-help path, the way devoid of integrity and faith, the deceptive road of denial.

 

They experienced how instant gratification can often lead to self-destruction. And at the end of their journey, they found no satisfaction.

 

While my snack dilemma didn’t cause me to face a life-and-death decision, it did remind me that my choices shouldn’t be made in an effort to meet my immediate fleshly desires.

 

Settling for instant gratification can pull us into the pit of despair, discouragement, or dissatisfaction, whether were talking about food choices, relationships, decision making, or trusting God to keep His promises.

 

But when we believe God meets our needs in His timing and according to His perfect will, we can give to God and others without fear of being in want.

 

Lord, thank You for reminding us that waiting on You is a sign of wisdom and faith. Please help us avoid the temptation to settle for instant gratification, which often leads to dissatisfaction, discontent, or destruction of self, relationships with others and our intimacy with You. In Jesus’ name, amen

 

In what area of your life is it hardest to avoid the temptation of settling for instant gratification?

 

What are some things we can do or some verses that can help us trust God to lead us, transform us, or provide for us, even when we’re tempted to speed things along for Him? 

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