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Don’t Dwell on the Past

by J. M. Farro on April 7th, 2019

   “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  Isaiah 43:18 NIV

   The house that I grew up in is up for sale right now.  My dad has been dead for almost 22 years, and my mom passed away five months ago.  Our old house has been cleaned out so thoroughly that it looks very much like it did when it was new and we moved into it over 50 years ago.

   As I studied the realtor’s photos of each room of our old home, I tried to visualize my family and me in each one.  I pictured my father, my mother, and my three sisters – even my paternal grandmother – laughing, sharing, and even crying within the walls of that house.  And waves of sorrow swept over me.  As I began to feel physical symptoms in the pit of my stomach, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to stop.  But I kept dwelling on the past, even though it was causing me pain, not caring about the consequences.

   The next day, I woke up feeling sick all over.  I sought the Lord for His wisdom, already knowing in my heart what the cause of my illness was.  Just as I suspected, those moments I spent dwelling on my family history the night before – soaking in the grief and the feelings of loss – had impacted my physical body and my health.  God gave me clear confirmation in the matter, allowing me to suffer the natural consequences of my actions, so that I would be much more careful in the future about dwelling on the past in ways that could do me harm.

   God commands His people in the Scriptures, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18 NIV)  Why is the Lord against us dwelling on the past?  Because doing so can cause us to get stuck where we are.  When our focus is on the past, it’s too easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves.  Or to focus on our regrets.  Or to think that our best days are behind us.  Worst of all, dwelling on our past can make us feel unthankful for all of the blessings in our lives, especially the blessings we have in the present.

   In the next verse of this passage of Scripture, God goes on to say, “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19 NIV)  If we put these two verses together, we see that the Lord wants us to resist dwelling on the past so that we can “perceive” the “new thing” He wants to do in our lives.  He knows that if we are unreceptive to the brand-new things He’s about to do, then we might delay or prevent them from coming to pass.  Don’t miss the excitement that is in the Lord’s voice within these verses.  He knows that what He has in store for us is far better than anything we could imagine.  The Living Bible translation bears this out when it says, “But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do!” (v. 18)

  What is it in your past that you have been dwelling on?  On behalf of the Lord, I urge you today – “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand-new.  It’s bursting out!  Don’t you see it?  There it is!” (Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)

    Lord, I don’t want to miss out on any of the wonderful plans You have for my life.  Teach me how to resist dwelling on the past in ways that will cause me to get stuck.  Show me how to constantly move forward into the better things You have for me up ahead.  Guard me from self-pity, feelings of regret, and unthankfulness, and help me to maintain an attitude of gratitude at all times.  Thank You that as I keep my eyes of faith open, I will be able to perceive the new things You have in store for me!

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