By JC & Snow
Nostalgia can be fun, but it can also be a barrier to spiritual growth if you dwell too much on the past. For one thing, we tend to remember the best parts and forget the rest. While this is only natural, it can make the “good ol’ days” of our lives seem idyllic in a way against which our lives today can never hope to compete.
The Israelites of the Old Testament come to mind. It seems every few miles on the way to the Promised Land, they are complaining to poor Moses about something. Here is but one example:
“‘If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.'”
God and Moses have literally led these people to freedom. God has even worked visible miracles to do so, including the parting of the Red Sea. Yet, they are remembering the good ol’ days . . . of being slaves in Egypt. Here is how the Bible describes that slavery:
“The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.
“The Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.”
from Exodus 1:11,13-14
Rather than placing their newfound freedom in perspective, the Israelites choose to obsess over the best part of their former lives – the Egyptian version of the all-you-can-eat buffet. They forget that the costs of admission to that buffet were their bodies and spirits.
This is not to suggest we should dwell on negative events from our past. In fact, you should discard anything that is holding you back and take only the good memories with you. Just don’t obsess over those memories.
As always, Paul has some good advice on the topic:
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Paul is focusing himself and telling himself to forget his past. Along the same lines, let’s go back to the Old Testament. This is from Isaiah:
“I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”
Here, God is telling us, humanity, to forget His previous miracles because His future miracles will be even bigger.
People will sometimes say if only God still did big miracles – like the parting of the Red Sea. Saved Christians don’t need to see those kinds of miracles, though, because, as Paul said, we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we intimately know Jesus. These are far bigger miracles than parting any seas. We are carrying within us the very same power that brought Jesus back to life.
The faithful of Isaiah’s time were only able to read or hear about what we are blessed to have. They were still faithful, even without the gifts we have.
“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
Live for today and tomorrow, not for yesterday. Lean into the future, not the past.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.