Our past can have a tremendous impact upon our present lives. It can provide a foundation to propel us forward positively or become a chain that drags us down. My friend Lance once stole some lollies and chocolates from a local convenience store when he was 9 years old. His mother found out and made him confess to the shop owners. They worked out a deal where he had to work for them for free to repay for the goods he took. It helped him understand how hard they had to work for a living and how such stealing affects them. To this day Lance values how hard small businesses work. Such seemingly small misbehaviour can lead down a road to greater criminal activity. Instead, the wise mother turned a potentially negative situation into an invaluable lesson. Our past makes a huge difference in how we approach our present. Including our walk with God.
Having dealt with numerous Christians over decades of pastoral leadership, I have observed that our past does impact upon our on-going relationship with God, our freedom to serve Him and other general areas of our life. Your faith can make a significant impact upon how you deal with these. People of faith approach their chequered past with faith and resolve to deal with their past in order that they can move forward unhindered. Your faith can impact greatly upon the emotional and spiritual healings that occur in your life and that of your family.
In the story of Moses’s encounter with God in Exodus 4 on the journey back to Egypt, we discover 4 key aspects about dealing with our past. We will call this the 4Rs of dealing with our past. At that point, Moses had accepted God’s burning bush call to set the Israelites free from Egyptian slavery. So he set out from Midian with his family towards Egypt. Only to find God confronting him on an unresolved issue in his life. So can we learn from it?
REPERCUSSIONS FROM OUR PAST
We either deal with our past or our past will deal with us
Skeletons in our closet, skeletons from our past can great impact negatively upon our present and future. We either deal with our past or our past will deal with us. It can present:
1. Constraints to moving forward
Exodus 4:19-20 (NIV84) Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, "Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.
Moses was once a star in Egypt, a prince. Yet he ended up a lowly shepherd in the backside of the desert. His life was stuck in limbo because of his fear of being caught by Pharaoh for a manslaughter he committed in an act of anger (Ex 2:11-12). He could not move forward for 40 years because of his fear. Sometimes, our past can constrain us from moving forward in certain areas of our lives. Fears developed in our past can cause us to avoid certain situations or people. My fear of heights would cause me to avoid being in tall buildings, or at least looking out from tall structures for many years. A friend of mine, Martin, has a fear of heights that caused him not to enjoy flying on aeroplanes.
What about the fear of trusting others? It can occur due to past bad experiences of those who abused our trust. Unfortunately, the fear of trusting others will hinder us from deep meaningful relationships. Bad experiences from the past can also narrow or colour our perspectives and thinking.
Ps David Yonggi Cho shared about his harrowing experiences of the Japanese Occupation of South Korea when he was growing up. That left a lasting bitterness in his heart for the Japanese. This bitterness scarred him and he could not reach out to the Japanese. Once he was invited to minister to a group of Japanese pastors in Japan. When he got up to the podium to speak, he froze. When he looked at all the expectant Japanese faces, he was brought back to his childhood memories of the Japanese soldiers that persecuted his family. At that point, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he had to forgive the Japanese for the hurts they caused his family and his people. In tears he admitted to the Japanese pastors that he struggled to minister to them because of the bitterness in his heart. Then he asked for their forgiveness and asked them to pray for him that he might forgive them. Together they cried and hugged one another. That day forgiveness welled up in his heart towards the Japanese. Later, Yoido Full Gospel Church was able to plant churches in Japan.
Our past can cause an unhealthy preoccupation. For example, unforgiveness and bitterness can cause to focus on taking revenge. Joab did not forgive army commander Abner for killing his brother Asahel in the heat of battle. Although Abner was a righteous warrior, Joab schemed against him and murdered him through deceit (2 Sam 2:8-3:27). Instead of focussing on good noble things, Joab became preoccupied with revenge. Consequently, he fell from grace before King David and before God.
Fears can set up walls in our hearts. Prejudice can set up blockages in other areas. Addictions or unhealthy preoccupations pull us down certain directions.
Fears can set up walls in our hearts. Prejudice can set up blockages in other areas. Addictions or unhealthy preoccupations pull us down certain directions. These and other issues from our past can impose a life imprisonment upon us.
2. Consequences catching up
Exodus 4:24 (NIV) At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him.
Moses had sinned against God and the consequences of that sin had finally caught up with him. We may be able to escape from some consequences from our past, but we are unlikely to escape from it all. Especially when it is a sin against a Holy God. God in His mercy did not immediately judge Moses for some time but finally judgment arrived.
Joab's sin of murdering Abner finally caught with him at the hands of King Solomon who had him killed for his deceitful schemes (1 Kings 2:31-34). I knew a pastor who was not wise in his financial dealings. He failed to listen to godly advice. Unfortunately, he ended up in large debt. He had to run for his life because of fears his creditor will kill him. Consequently, his ministry was cut short and his family suffered due to his unwise decisions. The consequences caught up
It is far better if we can resolve some of these issues before the consequences catches up with us. Matt 5:25 (NIV) Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.
God does not want us to be constrained by our past.
God does not want us to be constrained by our past. He wants us to be set free from such constraints! He wants to help us address the consequences from our past. Rather than fleeing our past, we can face our past. Apostle Paul wrote to Philemon about his slave Onesimus who had run away but who became a Christian under Paul's ministry.
Rather than fleeing our past, we can face our past.
Philem 1:10-12 (NIV) 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.
Paul knew Onesimus had to face his past and sent him back to do just that.
Parents can play a very important role with our families. Sometimes some members of our family can be faced with repercussions from their past. You can play a key role to help them deal with the past otherwise the past will deal with them. At the very least you can encourage them to find help. Wise parents discern when certain bad experiences have caused emotional scar to our children. We can help them by trying to talk it through with them and helping them not to be scarred by the experience. Mothers, in particular, have a special role as mothers love their families very much. Let this love stir you, like Zipporah, to help your family get beyond the past repercussions. Sometimes, it may mean getting past our own past as well. So that we can help our family!
Our past can cause repercussions. It can constrain us from moving forward. It can lead to consequences catching up to us. Hence it is wisest to face our constraints from the past and addresses it as soon as possible. Even though it may be painful. This way we minimise its consequences from derailing us. For we can never avoid its consequences forever.
In part 2 of this article we will unpack the remaining 4Rs.
Copyright©️2022 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.