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.'” Exodus 16:3
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.” Isaiah 43:16-18
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.”
Happy New Year! As the sun rises on the 2020s, this is a perfect time to take stock of your life. Many people will make “resolutions” that will be all but forgotten by this time next week. What is the point of doing that?
Instead, we suggest that you make daily commitments for your soul. Here are some to consider:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ […] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (from Mark 12:30-31).
“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. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.” Isaiah 43:16-20
For both of us, 2019 was a year full of change. Except for giving birth, just about every other major life event that can happen to someone occurred to at least one of us in 2019 – much of it chronicled here on this very site. It was a year of blessings and tragedy, and through it all, we had Jesus and each other.
As the above excerpt from Isaiah says, though, “forget all that.” For you, that may mean forgetting 2019. Or it might mean the 2010s. Or even your entire life to this point.
Forget all of it.
Jesus is about to do something new in your life. Focus on what He is about to do. Look for Him. Feel Him.
Watch as He makes a pathway for you through the wilderness. Watch as He brings you water in the dry wasteland.
He is always there with you. He has a plan, and you are in it. He has already begun. See it.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you in 2020 with peace, love, and joy.
The Snow half of this writing duo once read a fun article about leadership lessons from Captain Kirk (of Star Trek). One of the ones that really stuck with him was, “Blow up the Enterprise.” In other words, be willing to let go of your past in order to secure your future.
[Trivia Interlude: As Snow watched the music video linked above for “Burn The Ships” just now, he saw another Star Trek connection. The vessel used in the video is the Lady Washington. She appeared in the 1994 movie Star Trek Generations as a 19th century USS Enterprise. So, it appears For King & Country really did blow up the Enterprise!]
“We’ve got to burn the ships, cut the ties, send a flare into the night, say a prayer, turn the tide, dry your tears, and wave goodbye. Step into a new day. We can rise up from the dust and walk away. We can dance upon our heartache.”
From “Burn The Ships,” Burn The Ships, For King & Country, written by Joel David Smallbone, Luke Smallbone, Matt Hales, & Seth Mosley
When God leads you to make significant changes in your life, it is tempting to keep a safety net. The familiar, even if it is harmful to you, is comfortable. If Jesus is pulling you away from a state of stagnation and into bold, new changes in your life, you need to burn the ships. Let go of your past, for it is holding you back from the future He intends for you.
As a Biblical concept, the command not to look back can be traced all the way to Genesis. As Lot and his wife flee the the burning of Sodom, they are warned by an angel:
“Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!” Genesis 19:17
About two thousand years later, Jesus provided his would-be followers a similar decree:
“Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
Burning the ships may well impact others. For example, you might have a toxic person in your life that you need to leave behind. If so, you have to give that person to God and then move on. Don’t look back. Proceed with the life He has planned for you.
Please be clear that we are not advocating that you take such life-altering decisions lightly. You should only burn the ships if you are certain God is leading you to do so. This should involve much prayer. Not only speaking to Him, but listening for Him.
If you are certain, though, then have a conversation with Him. JC provides an example below. When you reach the blanks, fill in what your heart tells you.
Burn the ships.
I can’t, I will have nothing.
You will have Jesus.
“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?”
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”
Burn the ships.
How? I’m scared.
Cling to Jesus, He will carry you.
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Burn the ships.
Why? I at least I know the situation I’m in, even though there’s _________. Its the “devil I know.” I have no idea what will happen if I _________.
Pray, fast and trust Jesus. He has died for you, His love for you is beyond understanding.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Burn the ships.
What will people think?
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.”
1 John 2:15
Burn the ships.
Who will I become? This is the me I know.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.”
Thank you for reading. We humbly offer this prayer for you:
Please bless our readers and provide clear guidance on Your intended paths for their lives. Help them to know if they need to burn the ships and let You transform them. Help them resist the natural urge to look back. In the precious name of Jesus we pray.
If it takes 40+ boxes to pack a room that contains your stuff, you have a problem. It will be okay. Jesus will help you.
All humans make mistakes. If you take a wrong turn, admit your mistake, fix it, and get back on Jesus’s course.
Be careful as to who and what you give your energy.
Accept help from people. Even ask for it. This is one way Jesus sends you gifts.
Never be so busy that you don’t notice the gifts Jesus provides you every day.
Comfortable silence is better than a blaring TV.
No more soda for you. Ever.
Stand in nature and breathe deeply.
Look for signs of Him, for He is everywhere.
If you don’t love someone, then don’t marry her or him. Even if you think this person is the only one who will ever love you. Maybe especially then.
If you don’t want to be with someone more than you want to be alone, then don’t marry her or him.
Never give up who you really are for another person. Be true to yourself.
If you want to go on a mission trip to feed hungry children, and someone has a problem with that, you need to seriously take a look at why that person is in your life.
If someone is jealous of time you are spending with your ill mom, that is not a good sign.
If someone doesn’t like scripture quotes, that is not a good sign.
You can give someone a Bible. Even two of them. But you can’t make her or him read it.
Never become so dependent on someone that you can’t drive yourself wherever you need to go and do what you need to do.
Sex should not be the driver for your relationship.
Your true love doesn’t walk away from you when you are obviously in need. She or he holds you until you are okay.
If your significant other has more than two TVs, run.
If your significant other spends more time on Amazon than with you, run. Incidentally, if this same person removes you from her or his Amazon Prime account, you know it’s over. Celebrate.
If the Amazon delivery driver knows how to get your place without directions, you might have a problem.
If your significant other won’t pray with you, despite you asking, flee.
If your significant other rushes to get the mail first each day, she or he may be hiding something.
If you have shared with your significant other how you receive love, and she or he doesn’t care, flee.
Don’t engage with people who play games with your emotions – silent treatment, cold shoulder, etc. Instead, play with those who bring you joy (or pain, if that’s your thing as a consensual act within a marriage).
If you are disappointed when someone comes home after being away, this is not your true love.
If you are excited to leave someone, this is not your true love.
If you hold someone for 15 minutes with no words needed after being apart, she or he is your true love.
If you are filled with joy just to stand next to someone, then that is where you should spend your time.
If someone in your life takes time to analyze your anxiety and comes up with methods to overcome it, this person deeply loves you. Cherish her or him.
If you secretly love someone, tell her or him. Don’t just imply you love her. Tell her. If she is worth your love, she will at minimum be flattered, and she may surprise you with her own words.
If you have never laid on the beach, lay on it with your true love.
Kiss your true love as if it is the last time, every time.
Never leave things unspoken or unresolved. Always make sure you say “I love you” to those you do.
Yes, love being with people, but be able to function even if you miss them.
Always be involved in your finances. Don’t give this up to anyone else. Know what is going on with God’s money.
Never have a credit card balance. Ever. If you already have them, stop charging, and start paying them down.
Where your money goes is where your heart is.
If you have Amazon, drop Prime. Pay for your shipping. You will buy less.
Run your credit report.
If you are checking to see if you have enough room on your credit card to afford an item, you can’t afford it.
Never let someone else use your credit cards.
Better yet, have no credit cards at all.
If the pastor is inspired by Jesus, no one cares if the choir is out of tune.
If the pastor doesn’t say “turn in your Bible to ….” so that you can read along and understand for yourself, then run.
Spend in depth time with Jesus alone.
Create a personal relationship with Jesus. Read and pray daily.
Kneel and pray with your true love. Every day.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6).
Say what you mean. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No'” (Matthew 5:37).
“God is love” (1 John 4:16). If you don’t have God, you don’t have love.
Today’s post represents a written collaboration with my Bible Study Partner, JC. She has actually collaborated on Beloved Walks from the beginning, for she helped name the site and provides the beautiful photographs that accompany and often inspire my writing.
JC keeps a number of journals, including one in which she captures thoughts related to her faith and whispers from Jesus. In coming to terms with the death of a very special loved one in February 2017, she documented a number of revelations from March 2017 to April 2018 on how to deal with tragedy. Those insights form the core of today’s post.
JC notes that one of the ways God whispers to us is through daily devotionals. Bits and pieces of scripture and advice all came together for her in the course of that year – some in the form of devotionals obviously sent by Him. In addition to reading the Bible daily, she recommends devotionals as another way to hear Him. You can find various devotionals all over the web or within the YouVersion Bible app (reading plans). Here is one list of devotionals that might be helpful to you as a starting point.
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In our lives, there will be times we face tragedy. It is part of the human experience. For instance, the loss of someone we love dearly can be devastating.
When faced with overwhelming sorrow, what should you do at the very worst moment of your life?
When the Lord asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, he obeyed and began the necessary preparations. Abraham journeyed to the mountains of Moriah to offer sacrifice, with Isaac in tow. Unaware of his role in the plan, Isaac questioned why they had not brought a sheep along for their offering. “God will provide,” Abraham professed (Genesis 22:8), and indeed He did – sparing Isaac after Abraham passed this ultimate test of trust and providing a ram in his place.
If the pain is so overwhelming that it consumes you, you must rest and find comfort in who God is, not in how you feel, what you see, or what is happening.
Focus on resting in who He is.
How can you pray when you hurt so much you can’t even breathe?
We need God to breathe.
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
“For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4
If you can’t breathe or pray, follow these steps until you can:
“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, ‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!'”
Job had lost everything except that which no one could take, his faith and God’s love.
“Every tear I’ve cried, You hold in your hand. You never left my side, and, though my heart is torn, I will praise you in this storm.”
From “Praise You In This Storm,” Lifesong, Casting Crowns, written by Mark Hall & Bernie Herms
Seek nature. Wherever you are in the world, He is there. Look for signs of Him. Go outside and breathe. Look for Him. He is there.
Finally, always return to praying to Him and reading scripture.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29
God’s awesome power is such that He uses tragic events to create good.
The best opportunity for Christians to move closer to being like Jesus is in the middle of suffering. He suffered on the cross for us, giving up His very life so that we may live.
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
There is always a purpose to every trial in your life. You are being tested. Being at your lowest provides the best opportunity for you to prove your faith.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20
Feel the power of Joseph’s words in the above verse. His brothers had literally sold him into slavery, but he recognized that God used the tragedy for good. For Joseph to have affected so many by the end of his journey, he had to endure that hardship near the beginning. Without it, his path would have been completely different, and he would not have touched so many people.
Joseph’s trial had a purpose. It was a stepping stone. You may not be able to see it yet, and you may never see it this side of Heaven, but your trial is the same. It has a purpose. It is a stepping stone.
“He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Take comfort in Paul’s words above. When you are at your lowest point, that is when Jesus has the most opportunity to lift you up. Feel His power.
If you are already saved, nothing can take the blessings of Jesus and eternal life away from you. However, Satan can make you feel those blessings are at risk. He will try to take the peace of Christ away from you.
Be strong. You are a child of God.
“When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”
Only after Job prayed for his friends was he blessed and healed.
Keep praying. You are not alone. You are never alone.
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And now, we pray for you, the one who has encountered this post due to tragedy in your life.
Please bless the readers of this entry who need your comfort. You are always with us, but reveal your presence to them today. Let them feel Your holy arms as you hold them.
Lift them and allow them to begin breathing, praying, and healing. Whether here or elsewhere, let them find a path to inner peace through your Word.
Let them feel the power of Your glory. Let them feel the glory of Your love. Let them feel the love of Your Son.