When the Past Is Holding Onto You

It’s me Lord. I’ve been hurt.

This sincere, six-worded phrase is one that I find myself speaking in prayer over and over again. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to get through a situation, I must confront it. By confronting my situation, I mean bringing it to the feet of Jesus and letting Him take care of it. It’s not because I am easily offended, but this prayer is an overflow of feelings that emerge due to my past. Growing up, we experience situations and learn many lessons that cultivate us into the adults that we are. However, one very important lesson that we miss is the one about forgiving the past and letting go. We are frail human beings compelled by circumstances we have no control over and cannot change. Sadly, our future actions are governed by the hurts of our past, and we miss out on growing to the potential God has set for us. God never intended for us to be burdened by the things of the past because his blood covered that debt.

Often, consuming feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, disappointment, and hurt overcome me. At times, I must seek out the promise of a quiet room to let God help me through those emotions. These feelings have not arrayed from my own doings necessarily, but they are components of my past. More importantly, these feelings are chains that keep me bound to the past. Whether in church, or simply convincing yourselves, I am sure you have heard the phrase to, “let go and let God have control.” This is obviously the right concept, and one that is most effective in dealing with situations because we know that God will take care of everything. However, my imperfections wonder, “How can I let go of something that is holding on to me?” I do not ask for those feelings of hurt to arise, but they do. The feelings are as if I have been hit to unconsciousness and I am no longer in control. So, how do we let go?

Before moving on to the “letting go” phase, we must understand some truths that God fulfilled in our lives when He gave himself on the cross.

You Are Not a Victim

I know this sounds a little harsh. I am not in any way disguising or relegating your pain when I say that you are not a victim. However, we must stop victimizing ourselves. When we play the role that we cannot have a normal life because of what we’ve been through, we are putting the chains back on ourselves when God has freed us. It’s like picking an old wound that has healed. When we continue with the mindset that we are victims to hurt and pain, we are letting things that are not of God control us. We may have been victims to life at one point and time, but God has paid a price so that we don’t have to live in fear. A war is already waged. You are victorious in Jesus because he already fought your battle and won. You are not a victim anymore.

(Deuteronomy 20:4) For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

Your Thoughts Are Not Your Own

We must take every thought captive. Many times, my mind unremittingly reminds me of where I use to be. Your mind will remind you of who you use to be and where you have come from, but that is when we take those thoughts and give them over to God right then. We must control our thoughts and fill our minds with the things of God. Reforming our mindsets when we have already been molded by life is a process that only God can completely alter, and that is why we must trust him with our past. We cannot change our past, but we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is perfectly okay to give God the same hurts over and over. He knows that we are weak at times; and the more we give our hurts to him, the faster we can relinquish our pain. You don’t have to live in subjection to shame and hurt.

2 Corinthians 10:5 — Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

(Philippians 2:5) Let this mind be in you, which is also in Christ.

(Isaiah 55:8–9) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Romans 12:2) And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Forgiving means forgiving yourself, too!

I am changed. As circumstances happened in my life, I felt my heart harden and form like concrete. I felt myself building walls to protect my vulnerability. Emotions were passive, and life was only black and white for me. I went from compassionate to cold and was led by my brokenness. The most destructive mindset I took on was blaming myself and others. Then, I isolated myself from those who truly cared for me. Forgiveness is an enormous process in letting go. In fact, forgiveness is letting go. Remember that you are a child of the king, and anything is possible with God. Pray every day for God to give you the strength to forgive and let go, and trust him to take care of it. If you are led by God, you will be a new creature and everything in the past will no longer matter; all things will become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Paul says it perfectly in Philippians 3:12–16

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, a let us be of the same mind.

Finding Balance

Do you ever wake up and wonder how you are going to get everything done on your to-do list?

Laundry, groceries, kids, meals, work, time with your spouse, exercise, rest… It can be an overwhelming feeling!

How can we juggle our different roles as parents, spouses, employees, friend, and children to our own parents all while being a child of God?

We must remember that everything we do reflects our love for Him — even when it seems mundane. God sent Jesus to live as one of us. He experienced our life and its many demands. And although the life He lived was very different from ours today, we can look to the Bible for the importance of balance between life and work.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:23–24 NLT) In other words, all our work is done on behalf of Christ.

A parallel verse occurs just a few verses earlier, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17 NLT) Again, this says that whatever we do — in work or business — is to be done in the name of Jesus, to reflect His love for us.

As a child of God, we must take the time to set priorities to find balance in our lives. So how do we do this?

Make a Plan – Finding balance is about prioritizing, making a plan, and then getting it completed. Our priorities should include God being first, and then prioritizing family, time for ourselves, others, responsibilities, jobs, etc. Plan your work, and then work your plan!

Make Time for God – It sounds a little strange, but we must set aside time to spend with God each day. A constant relationship with God is the key to finding balance, and it sets the pace for everything else we do. Schedule a date with the one who loves you the most!

Make Time for Family – God has given us all a responsibility to be there for our families. This is not to be taken lightly. We need to teach our kids about God, invite Him to be present in our family life, and thank Him regularly for our gifts.

Make Time for yourself – We all have the same amount of time. It’s how we use our time that can make a difference. It’s important that we spend time doing enjoyable things with others, as well as alone. Exercise can help clear our minds and allow us to re-focus when we feel tired. Spending time for ourselves feeds our soul and spirit and makes us better friends, parents, employees, and spouses.

So what about stress? Stress has a familiar pattern: worry, strain, and nervous tension accompanied by a frenzy of rush and hurry. It is a feeling of having too much to do, too many problems, feeling driven and distraught. Stress causes us to become mentally and emotionally upset. When we feel stressed, we are out of balance. Handling stress allows us to find balance in our life.

Jesus knew about stress. “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:25–26, NLT) He is saying, don’t worry about the stresses of life, I will help you!

So next time you wake up burdened by your list of things to-do, ask God to help you remember to focus on Him and to find balance as you go through your day.

Your Body Is a Temple

I was shocked when I saw a report by the CDC recently that stated that 80% of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of exercise per week. The U.S. government recommends adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both. Adults should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights or doing push-ups at least twice per week. That’s it?!

I have been involved in some sort of exercise my entire life. It began when I was young and I started swimming. I was on a summer swim team from age 5 until I graduated from high school, and competed for my high school team. Was I always a winner? NO! But what I loved about it was the feeling that I was moving my body; and as I was under the water, my mind was free to think about whatever. During my high school years, I began to take up running and found that same feeling of peace as the miles passed and my mind wandered. As I have gotten older, I have kept up with my exercise regimen because it makes me feel good. But I look around and see that even some of my closest friends don’t.

As I reflected on this, I wondered why more people aren’t exercising. Why isn’t it a priority? I turned to the Bible to see what I could find:

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NLT)

I read this as a wake-up call. Are you honoring God with your body? If not, why?

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1 NLT)

If the Bible tells us to let our bodies be a living and holy sacrifice to God, shouldn’t we do our best to take care of them?

Last but not least:

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT)

This is my favorite verse, and it reminds me of the time my sons helped judge a fitness competition for wounded warriors. They came home from that event very humble and in awe of what the men and women were able to do, even though their bodies were compromised. Nothing is impossible with God! Set a goal for yourself and pray for guidance as you make a plan to meet that goal.

So as Christians who want to honor and please God, I encourage you to take this as a challenge. Reflect on these words and statistics, and ask yourself if you are one of the 80% of Americans who isn’t exercising enough. If so, make a plan. Start small if you need to; promise to take the stairs instead of an elevator or park farther away from your office each day. Set a long term goal and figure out what you need to do to meet it. Remember, no one wakes up and decides to run a marathon that day!

God will help you and reward your fitness efforts if they are done in His service and not out of vanity or selfishness. Put your trust in God, and He will guide you… just do it!