Don’t dwell on yesterday’s mess. One thing is always true about yesterday—it’s gone. It’s complete. It’s out of reach, and there’s nothing we can do about it. My son was a quarterback in college football, and I can watch videotapes of his wins and losses. Instant replay is a cruel thing when our team doesn’t come out on top. No matter how many times I run the tape, our defense misses the tackle or drops the pass or stumbles just short of the goal line. Every time I play it back, something in me thinks that this time the play may come out differently. But once the whistle has blown, the play is over, and we have to let it go.
That’s difficult to do sometimes, isn’t it? I know believers who have come to Christ from very troubled, perhaps sordid backgrounds. Occasionally the past creeps up on them and the enemy whispers, “Don’t forget who you were and what you did—you haven’t really changed.” Guilt is powerful. I remind these people of the infinite forgiveness of God. He has placed our past sins as far from us as the east is from the west. God has forgiven.
But still, people insist that they can’t forgive themselves. At that point I observe, “That’s amazing—you have a standard higher than God’s!”
If He can cut away the past, we must be able to do likewise. If you’ve confessed it, it’s been forgiven. Put it away forever and move on; imagine it’s been buried in the bottomless ocean of God’s grace, and it has no more power over you. You might as well worry about something that happened several hundred thousand years ago, for it has that much relevance.
Don’t dwell on yesterday’s success. It’s possible to feel anxiety about posi-tive things, too. What if there were a time when everything seemed right in your life? What if you received that great award, or had a wonderful experience in your youth, or had a happier period in your family? An aging athlete can think back to the time when he had that little bit of extra speed or endurance that made him an all-star. And we dwell on these things, lamenting the good old days and how they’ve passed away.
Paul the Apostle, one of the most successful men who ever lived, made an interesting declaration at the close of his life and career. He said that he hadn’t achieved his great goal yet, but that he kept his focus on one thing—forgetting what was behind him and pushing forward to the one wonderful thing still before him: the high calling of Christ. Paul could have sat in that prison and lingered in the scrapbook of his memories—the miracles, the young churches, the glorious spread of the gospel at his hands. But he put even those wonderful memories behind him because the future sparkled even brighter.
That’s what you and I must do. We must dwell on the miracle of what lies before us today, this moment, this second. All else is dim by comparison.
Don’t dwell on yesterday’s distress. This could be the hardest thing to do—letting go of our heartbreak.
Everyone is served their cup of sorrow in season. There’s no avoiding that in this world. And a considerable portion of my work of ministry is holding the hands of people and walking with them through the valley of the shadow. But I hope I can help them walk finally back into the light, for that valley is no place to build a home. Grief and mourning are clean, biblical emotions, but they’re not permanent ones. Every extra day of dwelling in those shadows is a day of joy lost—a day of not seeing the wonderful things God wants us to see.
The important thing is to keep on walking. Don’t look over your shoulder to yesterday’s happiness or sadness; don’t crane your neck to see what may lie beyond the bend in the road. You need to put one foot in front of the other and take one step at a time. Live in the present tense, and make every day a beautiful gift to God, unmarred by the lines and wrinkles of worry.
David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 12–14.
I have just completed a 6-week Bible study based on this book. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.
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