Nearly everyone knows someone who is filled with resentment, discouragement, and frustration. Many of these folks seem to be angry at the world. Where is this behavior coming from? It comes from living in the past or as I like to say, “Living life looking backward.”
Living backward is a sure sign that something in the past is controlling the present. We all have past hurts that we vividly remember. They are like scars that remind us of previous wounds that we would like to erase from our memories. The issue here is not do we have scars? The issue is do we let the scars of the past control our future?
When I teach on the subject of biblical forgiveness I usually have someone approach me afterwards and say to me that they had been taught that true forgiveness is completely forgetting about the past event. I would respond,“that this is impossible.” I then tell them the story about me jumping on the bed when I was a kid and landing on a pair of scissors that went up my leg. The event was frightening, the pain was real and the doctor didn’t use anesthetic when he sewed me up.
Do you think that I can forget that incident, not on your life? Fifty plus years later I still have the scar to prove it. But the key point is I don’t let this past event control my life. I don’t dwell on the pain and the fright that the doctor caused me, but every once and a while I will see the scar and I will be reminded of that day. My scar reminds me of the painful event.
In a similar manner, when we allow our hurtful past to control our present, we begin to live backwards. We are allowing the past to set our attitude and agenda for our life. True forgiveness is not totally forgetting the past but it is simply letting go of the past and not letting it control our present.
I remember a series of counseling sessions with a man who had a very hurtful and nasty divorce. The betrayal and hurt was overwhelming. I asked him, “Have you really forgiven your ex-wife?” He said, “Yes I have.” Then I said, “Then why do you bring her up with anger nearly every conversation we have?” I knew he hadn’t forgiven, not only because he couldn’t stop bashing her, but because he had become an angry man.
Left unattended, the root of unforgiveness go deep and causes us to live in both the past and the future. We live in the past because we are angry and we just can’t get past the anger. The anger touches all of our relationships. When the roots of anger spread out it also causes us to live in the future. When we live in the future we become fearful. Living in the past causes anger and living in the future causes fear. So the person filled with anger lives in the past and the future, vacillating between anger and fear. Real peace is only found in living in the present, trusting God for today and living in the now. We are only at peace when we leave the past in forgiveness and put the future in God hands.
You do have a choice. You can choose to hold onto the past and live looking backward or you can chose with an act of your will to forgive. You may be saying, “I just can’t let go.” That’s correct. You can’t forgive on your own. Forgiveness is a supernatural act. Forgiveness becomes a supernatural act when you surrender your helplessness and inability to God. Your part is to repent and with an act of your will, by faith, forgive. Then allow the Holy Spirit to do His supernatural work in you to complete the transaction. God will never ask you to do anything that He will not enable you to do. Will you take that step of faith and stop living life looking backward?