Forgetting The Past

By C.M. Becton

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Someone has made the statement, “We live one-half on dreams.” How wonderful it is to be able to remember the great events that have
happened to us, and it seems that the longer we live the more that we reminisce about the things of the past.

Parents do well to make good memories for their children. Some of my fondest memories have to do with my childhood. My father and mother took much time with my brother and me to see that good things would take place in our lives. They made it possible for us now to look back on and relish the memories of our youth. Oh, they did not know that they were making memories. But they made some wonderful ones.

A newsletter from one of the medical centers of our city said, “If you are age 65 or older, generally in good health, but are experiencing difficulty with your memory, you may be eligible to participate in a study of memory and aging. Persons over the age of 85 years, with mild or no forgetfulness, are particularly of interest.”

It is great to have a keen mind and to be alert whatever your age. But some who are reading this article have hurtful memories lurking in the dark corners of their hearts and minds. Perhaps the memories come from an unhappy childhood, physical or verbal abuse, a broken marriage, an unfortunate personal or business relationship, a sin that seems unforgivable, the death of a loved one, an error in judgment, or an injustice done to them.

All too often these memories rise up out of the dark recesses of the mind and heart to threaten our peace, our victories, and even our sanity. We place painful memories on the back burners of our lives, but every now and then they boil over and spill into our today. By not
dealing with past hurts, we allow them to infect us with hate, revenge, bitterness, remorse, and anger, and they can cripple our success and could reduce us to a serious state of chronic depression.

But there is a way up and out of hurtful memories. The answer, like all answers, is found within the pages of God’s Word, for there we find the constant assurance of a loving God and examples of how to deal successfully with bad memories.

One example is found in the Book of Genesis-in the person of Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. As a child, Joseph was envied by his brothers, and their envy soon progressed to hate. It was their hatred of him that prompted them to plot his death, but they changed their
plan and sold him into slavery instead. Joseph found himself a slave in Egypt, a strange land with different customs and culture. He was
separated from his father and family and thrust into the lowest social strata-slavery. He coped well, rising in the esteem and trust of his
master. But when his master’s wife falsely accused him of sexual impurity. As a consequence, he was thrown into a prison dungeon, though not guilty of any crime. Later, he was forgotten for years by a prisoner whom he befriended and who promised to bring his situation to the attention of Pharaoh.

Joseph could have become bitter, angry, and depressed by the memories of abuse, but he did not. Joseph refused to dwell on the past. He chose to look forward. In the midst of being busy for God in daily tasks, excelling in honesty and dependability, he eventually became the ruler under Pharaoh over all the land of Egypt. And God made him forget the painful past: “For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51).

As a young man, David was so favored by God and the people that King Saul hated him. Knowing that David and not his son Jonathan was likely to succeed him as king, Saul tried to kill him on more than one occasion. His threats and hostility made David’s life one of constant
unrest and fear.

After David became king, his life was blemished by adultery. He lusted after the wife of another man and committed adultery with her. This sin led to a greater sin, the murder of her husband, Uriah. These sins were not unknown by God, who sent the prophet Nathan to inform David that his sins gave a great occasion to the enemies to blaspheme the Lord.

Life did not get easier for David. He suffered the death of his young son. Another son, Absalom, formed a conspiracy to depose him and to become king. The evil deeds and death of Absalom cut deep into David’s soul and spirit.

How did David deal with his devastating memories? He faced them in repentance. His attitude is summed up in Psalm 51:16-17: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise.” David offered to God his broken heart in repentance, and he found the peace for which he sought.

With what memories did the apostle Paul have to contend? Before his conversion, he consented to the stoning of Stephen, a leader in the church. He witnessed the mob murder of Stephen; although he did not cast stones, those who did lay their coats at his feet. He so
forcefully persecuted Christians that he made havoc of the church. He had Christians arrested and so threatened some that they blasphemed to save their lives. When the Christians either went into hiding or fled Jerusalem, he pursued Christians to Damascus. He secured a letter from the high priest that instructed the synagogues in Damascus to assist him in arresting Christians so that he could bring them back to Jerusalem for trial and imprisonment.

Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus changed him. As a Christian, he zealously proclaimed Jesus Christ. But other Christians at first were suspicious of him, thinking that his conversion was a fake.

As a missionary, Paul was assaulted in Iconium, stoned at Lystra and left for dead, and imprisoned at Philippi. A group of Jews took an oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they killed him. He suffered shipwreck and endured a bite by a venomous snake. He was
punished by lashes, falsely accused by Jews, and forsaken by fellow Christians.

His past life was enough to haunt him in nightmares. How did he deal with his past sins and present troubles? The Scriptures tell us that he refused to let the things of the past keep him from pressing “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”
(Philippians 3:14). Paul repented of his sins, obtained God’s mercy, answered the call of God to serve as a minister, and set his thoughts and course toward a bright future. He “forgot” the things of yesterday by thinking of today and tomorrow.

If Joseph, David, and Paul could find a way to escape bad memories of their past, so can you. With God’s help. you can be free from haunting memories of sinfulness, failure, and abuse. You can “forget” them, and so will God. Hebrews 8:12 says: “For I [God] will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 10:16-17 says: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

How does God put His laws into our hearts and into our minds? When we repent of our sins, and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, God fills us with the Holy Ghost. This experience puts us into God’s kingdom, and we become His sons. We also
become the epistle of Christ: “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink,
but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart” (II Corinthians 3:3).

When you encounter painful past memories of sins that are forgiven and abuse that is healed, turn to the epistle God has written and is
writing in your hearts and read again of God’s wondrous redemptive grace and joy in your present forgiveness and in tomorrow’s glorious
promises.

(The above information was published by the PENTECOSTAL HERALD, October 1993)

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