Putting the past in its place is not easy—at least, for me.
Leonard Griffith wrote, “[We] keep ugly skeletons in the closet of memory and we think it virtuous to open the door occasionally and torture ourselves by remembering what these skeletons looked like when they were clothed in the flesh and blood of sin.”
Some of us know exactly where we failed in the past and we are still ashamed of it. Stop rattling the skeletons. Better yet, throw them away! God gave His Son to death on a cross to forgive the sins of the world, and we only frustrate God’s grace by refusing to believe that our sins are included.
Then there are skeletons that remind us of when somebody did something wrong to us. Toss them out! I don’t know why I think I can continue to disgorge all these bitter, spiteful words and not have a bad taste in my mouth. One of the smartest things I can do is to allow the Holy Spirit to work on my heart as the heart seems to be the source of this foul taste (Matthew 15:19-20).
There are also those skeletons that we dress up quite elegantly. We even take them out and put them on display. They are our past achievements. And they look good—at least in our eyes. Unhealthy brooding on failure tortures my conscience, unhealthy brooding on pain brought to me by others sours my life, and unhealthy brooding on my successes acts like a drug that lulls me into a spiritual stupor.
No wonder Paul said, “If I am going to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus, I’ve got to leave this stuff behind, look to the future, and claw the air to get to that finish line like my life depends on it—because it really does” (Philippians 3:13-14, paraphrased).
Maybe there are some skeletons you need to toss. It won’t be easy. Here are three thoughts that have encouraged me from Philippians 4:6-7.
- Don’t worry or be anxious. It will be a process for most of us. Don’t be surprised if you go to the closet and find one hidden behind a big winter coat. When you do, toss it. Be steady. Be diligent. Keep your eyes on the finish line and take another step forward.
- Keep prayer foremost in your efforts. You cannot do this alone. Tell God what you need. Remember, it is Christ in you who is doing the work (Galatians 2:20).
- Allow the peace of God which passes understanding to guard your heart. The disciples were in a storm that threatened to kill them. They cried, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” And Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves, “Silence! Be still!” And the wind died and it was completely calm (Mark 4:35-41). We wish someone would speak with a commanding voice, “Silence! Be still!” and calm the storms of the past that keep us awake at night. Paul promises that it will happen if we will consciously open our lives to God.