For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Matthew 6:14–15
In the 1980s sci-fi classic movie, Back to the Future, teen Marty McFly is thrown back in time to the 1950s when an experiment by a not-quite-right scientist named Doc Brown goes sideways, or backwards, and their time machine made out a car called a DeLorean actually works! Marty’s presence in the past, when his parents were teens, almost costs him his very existence because he ends up accidentally keeping his parents from falling in love and he spends the rest of the movie trying to get them together, and get back to the future.
We don’t have time machines made out of DeLoreans but sometimes we wish we did, especially when we mess up and sin or someone else’s sin messed us up. You and I can’t change the past. It can’t be done. But you can make the past mean something. You can apply God’s Word to your sin and the sin in the lives of those around you and allow it to become a balm for your pain, worry, weakness, and guilt. You can’t let the mistakes of the past define your future. When we forgive others and remember that God has forgiven us, we can live in gratitude and freedom by walking away from the stink of unforgiveness.
How disgusting is it when a dog throws up all of his partially chewed kibbles and then a few minutes later, while it’s still steamy warm, comes back and licks it all up? Disgusting right? But when you refuse to forgive and instead dwell in that past hurt, you are just like that dog. This is a biblical truth explained in Proverbs 26:11, and it still applies today. Don’t go back to the thrown-up pile of partially chewed sin from your past and rechew it. It has no value to you and only brings the same sickness back into your life that you threw up. Yuck!
If you want to put your past to work, allowing it to be used for good and not bad, then here’s what you can do: Make a list of the things that you just can’t seem to get over. Write them all out on a sheet of paper. Then after each one write what lesson God might want to teach you. This might seem like a small thing, but spiritually speaking, it’s huge. It’s taking what the enemy would have you keep in the dark and bringing it out into the light where it can get all cleaned up. And it’s the start of a new way of life. When you get good at looking at everything that happens to you as important for your spiritual growth, then thankfulness begins to rule your life—the past may hurt emotionally or even physically, but it can no longer harm you because you will entrust the past to the Lord, knowing that he is faithful to forgive you and love you.
Questions to ponder
Do you find it easy or difficult to forgive people? Do you find it easier to forgive loved ones or strangers? Why?
Who is someone that you have struggled to forgive in the past (or present?) If you haven’t forgiven them yet, what would it take for you to get there?
We’ll end with a prayer to ponder; pray it with me: “Father, set me free from the pains of my past. Teach me to leave the past behind and look to my present and future with you. Thank you for the gift of your Son and the freedom he brings. To you I give all my wounds, pain, and suffering, and I trust you to use it for good. Thank you for knowing just what to do and for willingly doing it. I love you. Amen.”