By Brian K. Jones
Some of the strongest ties that binds us, are the experiences of our past. Mistreatment, abuse of all kinds, abandonment, betrayal and the loss of someone close to us, are some examples. These experiences often have a powerful effect on our psychological, emotional and most importantly our spiritual development. They create a chasm that is filled with a pain we can’t tend to measure, but we see and know how it holds us back in certain areas of our lives. Each time we think about what we have had to endure it freezes us, it stops us from growing spiritually, like a deer in headlights, creating, what seems to be an impossibility to move beyond it. People try to encourage us to just let it go, but those words offer little help or comfort. We often respond… “I don’t think you understand!” Or “That’s easier said than done.” Or “When you have walked in my shoes, then you would know how difficult it is to just let it go.”
All are valid statements. No one can truly understand the toll that your experiences have taken on you. No one knows what it was like for you, as an individual. Even if they have had a similar history. You are you and they are who they are. Maybe they had something in them that you don’t possess. Maybe, God did something for them that He didn’t do for you, right? Maybe, their experience wasn’t as intense as yours. Maybe.
Let me share this biblical story with you. And let me be clear, this story is probably not going to mirror what you have gone through, but I pray you get the principle. The bible tells the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, in Genesis 37. Joseph was beloved by many. The bible says that was because he was born in his father’s old age. We all know the babies of the bunch get all the attention. Because of this his brothers hated him. Imagine being hated by your siblings. Joseph had a couple of dreams that he shared with his brothers and one with his father. (Verse 7 KJV) “For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.” (Verse 9 KJV) “And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” His brothers hated him more. They felt that his was saying he would reign over them. His father rebuked him.
Ultimately the brothers, as they were out tending the flock, they saw Joseph coming and mocked him and planned to kill him. But because they didn’t want his blood on their hands, they threw him into an empty pit. Then they decided to sell him as a slave to some Ishmaelite traders who were passing by.
Ok, so what is the point of this story? Look at Joseph’s mistreatment. Look at how his own brothers did him wrong. Now, insert your past here. My point is this: it is not about whether your story looks like anyone else’s; it’s about whether your story dictates what comes next in your future. Does your story become the building block for a stronger you or does it become the prison that binds you?
If we believe that God has preordered our steps and we are a part of His plan, then we have to ask ourselves… why would God allow me to endure what I have endured? Would it be so that I could spend my life burdened by it or them? Would it be so that I can live with this pain? God forbid! It’s your story. It’s so that you can share with others how you overcame your past with God’s help and prospered despite the wrongs done.
Now let me be clear, there are real emotional and psychological scars associated with life’s experiences. There is real pain! Few would deny this to be true, but the scars of our past and the pains borne out of them can’t be allowed to be greater than our purpose. Meaning, if you believe that God does not make mistakes and that He has a purpose for your life, then shouldn’t these experiences be a part of the success story of your life, rather than the hindrance of it? God does not desire for us to dwell in the misery of yesterday.
Take a moment and think about all the reasons why you can’t get past your past. If we are honest with ourselves, these are the excuses for staying trapped in this place. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV). “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 (NIV)
We have to press toward what is ahead. We must do the things that will help us mentally and emotionally overcome the hardships we have faced. We have to acknowledge that what we have endured is not some punishment. We must see those things as a part of our overcoming testimony. One of the hard things to conceptualize is, not everything that happens to you is ultimately about you. What you have experienced is for you to help someone else. Just as if you were blessed with millions of dollars. Those who use those millions to edify others, are the ones who never find themselves in need. Just as when you use your story to encourage and uplift someone, you gain an abundance of joy and peace. Most importantly, you become a stronger you with a closer relationship with God.
For Joseph, he became a prosperous man, that advised Pharaoh. He did rule over his family and many other regions. From slave to the “right hand man” of the Pharaoh. Joseph, never allowed what he had to endure to dictate who he was and God increased him. Let God be the mark you press toward and push past those dreadful things you had to endure by changing the way you think about it. God did not punish me! He is building a Great story in me! A story the world needs to hear.
Just as the painful events of our past can keep us stuck, so can the guilt and shame of our past sins. Guilt is an aspect of our conscience. It’s our internal awareness/ knowledge that a behavior or wrong we exhibited was out of line with what `is right. All men have a conscience! This we find in Romans 2:14-15(KJV), which says, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” Now, that conscience can become seared when our hearts become hardened. This hardening happens when we, consistently, push down or ignore the guilt of knowing we’ve done wrong. The ability to acknowledge guilt is then effected.
Shame is the emotional feeling that is birthed out of guilt. It is the feeling of embarrassment, humiliation and disgrace for the behaviors we have demonstrated. It is shame, if allowed to fester, that ultimately will bind us to feeling unworthy, hopeless and in a state of despair and or depression.
I am the father of six children. My relationship with them was damaged after the marriage to their mother ended. I separated myself from them and chose not to engage or be involved in their lives, because when I was with them it reminded me of my failure. So it became easier to stay away and not deal with that. In having a conversation with my oldest daughter, I would always apologize for not being there. She told me… “Dad!! Stop apologizing! I forgave you already.” It was my guilt and shame that didn’t allow me to forgive myself.
So how do we move beyond, the trap of bondage to our past sins? The truth is, some of us have done some horrible things in our lives. Things which we deem as unforgivable. “How can anyone forgive me for this?” Well, the first step is to acknowledge that none of us are without sin or without poor choices. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23 (KJV). We tend to think that what we have done is something unlike what anyone in the history of this earth has done before. As if, it is an unforgivable thing that sets us apart from everyone else. “There is nothing new under the sun.” You are just another sinner, as we all are. No better, no worse! (Note: We must be careful not to use this as an excuse to do bad things! This is just acknowledging the frailties of man.)
Second, we have to ask for God’s forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:19 (KJV). In the process of doing this, we have acknowledged that wrong. Then, His word also reminds us, “He shall again have compassion on us; He will subdue and tread underfoot our wickedness [destroying sin’s power]. Yes, You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19 (AMP). Which we must believe! You have to believe that His word is true concerning this. And, if He has forgiven you, then that opens up the door to the last step.
Lastly, and probably the most difficult thing to do to get past what you’ve done… is to forgive you! When we allow, ourselves to be fused to the errors of yesterday, knowing that we have acknowledged them, asked God for forgiveness and believe God has forgiven us and has cast them away, we make a choice to punish ourselves with an unworthy label. You see, when God forgives you… it’s gone! The enemy is the only one who reminds you of what a terrible person you were. Bind that enemy! You are not what you’ve done! You are a New Creature! “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood anymore.” Isaiah 54:4 (KJV).
Let me conclude by saying this, as overly simplistic as it may seem, it is truly within you power to let the past go… if… you make the choice to do so. The only thing, that makes it hard, is our choice to neither for give those who’ve done us wrong or forgive ourselves. And because we desire God’s forgiveness, we must forgive them and ultimately we must forgive us.
I am a father to 6 children and 3 grand children. I love life and enjoy the little things. Born and raised in Los Angeles. I have written all my adult life from one extant to another, but kept my writing to myself… mostly. I am a believer in God and His son Jesus Christ!