Holding on to our past is one of the easiest, yet ‘dangerous’, things to do. Why? It keeps us stagnated, feeling bitter and disturbed. You may think this only applies to negative things; however, it also applies to the positive things of the days gone. When you look back, you can’t see the future. Do you think those nice things God has done in the past are the only things He has in store for you? No. He has many more gifts waiting for you to embrace. Holding on to the negative experiences paralyzes you with negativity. God wants us to stop holding onto our past and look with expectation to our future; the future He has prepared for us.

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NKJV).

Implications of holding onto our past

Let’s have a look at the meaning of ‘past’. Past means gone by in time and no longer existing. I want to stress the part that says, ‘no longer existing.’ Our past is our past. It doesn’t exist anymore. The definition does not deny the past. Whatever has happened has happened. No one can deny that. But holding on to it will not help us in any way. It will not change our past because it has already happened. The only thing it can do is to negatively impact our present and our future.

Consequences for our health

Living in the past causes negative thoughts that not only affect our minds but also our health. They can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, obesity, and even anorexia. We may feel tired all the time and we cannot stay productive at work and enjoy all those little joyful things life offers us.

Wallowing in self-pity

Holding onto our past is sometimes a sign of self-pity. Thinking of it and feeling sorry for ourselves can give us a sense of purpose, although the purpose is wrong. In this feeling of self-pity, we even want others to feel pity for us as well. This is attention-seeking behavior, both attention from ourselves and attention from others. It keeps us busy.

Consequences for our relationships

By holding onto our past, we block our own happiness. As a result, we can become toxic persons, causing others to avoid us, propelling us into a life of solitude. No one wants to be around a resentful person, so don’t let the past ruin your relationships.

Pushing responsibilities away

Holding onto our past is also a way of avoiding responsibility. It keeps us from dealing with issues or people. It simplifies life (at least, that is what we think). If we present ourselves as victims of pain, we don’t have to be accountable. We avoid personal responsibility, and when we can blame external circumstances for our problems, we can then dump all our resentment and anger on others.

Holding onto our past prevents us from dealing with issues

Another reason we hold onto our past is that we confuse feeling with reacting. The challenge is, to heal, we must feel it. Feeling is being, and that can only happen when we choose to be present to the moment. Thus, living in our past prevents us from dealing with the issues causing us not to progress in life. And often it even causes us to make the same mistakes repeatedly.

Is our past the end?

Negative occurrences in our past may have triggered the way we feel today. It has happened; that cannot be changed. Nevertheless, the fact that it happened does not mean it has to get a hold on us; our past does not have to hold us back.

We may have been hurt, we may have made mistakes, we may have been victims of unpleasant situations, we may have the scars of it on our bodies, hearts, and minds. However, we do not have to let it define us. Our past is not our end. But when we hold onto it, in some way, it will become the end. It could blind us from the things God has prepared for us.

Let’s think of it. Does our past define who we are? No! it doesn’t. God is the only one who truly defines us. But if we cannot let go of our past, we negatively affect our present and our future.

What happens when we do not stop holding onto our past?

The main stumbling block that hinders us from starting afresh in life is blaming our past. Once we point to our past, we keep ourselves stuck in it. When we blame past occurrences for our current feelings, we have allowed our past to define our present. This causes us to think that our past solely formed our current character, behavior, and feelings and that there is no way out. These thought patterns leave no room for amendments, changes, or different views. They will keep us stuck in a negative spiral. They will keep our minds glued to our past.

God knew us before our past experiences

Our past influences us, but we were born before our experiences. We were someone before things happened to us. God created us before all of that. He knew us before we were born:

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born, I sanctified you.” Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV).

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the Earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

Psalm 139:13-16 (NKJV).

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace.”

Galatians 1: 15 (NLT).

Mindset changes to stop holding onto our past

We can loosen ourselves from the negative influences of our past by truly seeing God’s way in our lives. By understanding that His definition of us is greater than anything else, freeing ourselves from the influence of our past by not allowing it to define our present and future. We can break free and start a new life, a positive and purposeful life.

God created us for a reason, and He made us exactly how we should be. God’s purpose for our lives and the reason He created us are what defines us; not our past. God’s purpose for us is greater than anything we can imagine. His verdict supersedes any other judgement, even our judgment about ourselves.

So, let’s stop holding onto our past and start holding on to our God. How do we do that?

Step one: Get up!

Things may have gone wrong because of our own mistakes or because of external causes. Being a Christian does not exempt us from falling. However, we have something extra compared to unbelievers: “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.” (Proverbs 24:16). When we fall, we do not have to stay on the ground. Failures and terrible experiences are not the end. God knows the plans He has for us, and those plans do not end when something goes wrong. We can get up!

Step two: understand that God uses all things for your good

Nothing happens without God knowing it. This does not mean, however, that He did the bad things to us. He did not! But He uses our brokenness and the things we went through for something good. He turns it into something special, to glorify His Name. Think of Joseph, whose own brothers abandoned him. His situation seemed hopeless, especially when he was in jail for several years, but God used it for the good of Joseph and his whole family and made Joseph the second most powerful person in the nation.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28 (NKJV).

We can keep this in mind whenever we are tempted to think of the things of the past and instead be in expectation of the good things God will do with it. This will help us look forward instead of backward, to expect God to manifest His purpose in our lives. 

Step three: stop repeating the mistakes of the past

Our choices and actions really matter. In some ways, this is a mystery we can’t fully understand, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. We can choose to do things that will bring us more joy and give us more of a sense of purpose. Looking back to our past just to feel sorry for ourselves will add nothing good to our lives. But looking back for the sole purpose of identifying the wrong choices we made to prevent repeating them in the future will help us. Preventing the mistakes of our past will bring more excitement and God-given purpose into our lives.

Step four: understand God’s purpose for your life

Before we can embrace God’s purpose for our lives, we need to understand it first. How do we do that? By reading His Word and meditating on what His Word says about us and the way we live. By praying and asking God for understanding. He will reveal our purpose to us.

Step five: embrace God’s purpose

God is more powerful than anything that has happened to us, and His purpose for us remains no matter what has occurred. We should allow nothing of our past or current circumstances to limit us or condemn us, because God knows better: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” (I John 3:20) Instead, we should embrace God’s purpose for our lives.

Hope for the future

Every second we live in the past, we miss living in the present, and we miss seeing the things God has for us.

If we continue holding on to our past, we will forego everything He has in store for us. We need to forget about our past and look up to our God. Our God is an awesome God. He created us and our future. We can look with expectation to our future, our God-given future, because we can trust God. He has promised us hope and a future, and He does not lie.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT).

Let’s Pray

Thank You, Lord, that you have given me a mind to remember things and the ability of memory. I submit my memory to You, to help me identify bad choices and mistakes made. Give me the understanding of what I did wrong and help me loose myself from it. Grant me the wisdom to prevent making the same mistakes.

Thank You for giving me the strength to get up when I fall. Help me thoroughly understand that You use everything for my good, even the bad things. Give me the grace to look forward to and see the wonderful future You have for me. I thank You for the plans You have for me, they are good. I embrace them and choose to live in it. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

©copyright 2021; Christel Owoo.

Photo by Beth Hope on Unsplash