One of the things that I have noticed in the lives of so many men is how they are often haunted by the past. They are weighed down by baggage from their months and years up to now, and the weight prevents them from living well in the present. The pain of the past can often bring real misery into their current lives.
I once had a wise man share with me that the past does not determine who you are, although it clearly shapes your life. Furthermore, if you do not recognize your baggage from the past, at some point it will sabotage your life and your relationships.
It is unfortunate that so many of us are not even aware of the baggage in our lives. And of those who are aware of it, many refuse to deal with it.
If we think this through clearly, we see that anger, bitterness, and hatred are all about the past…about our past hurts. Where people have wronged us, injured us, abused us, or betrayed us. Or it may be that no one has done anything directly against us but rather to someone whom we love.
What I have found, if this goes unresolved, is that it can become a real mark on your soul.
Then there is the problem of guilt and shame. They, too, can be heavy burdens that we carry around. They are a result, generally, of some type of perceived failure in your life, whether it be a moral failure or a performance failure. This also involves a lack of peace with the past.
Finally, I am seeing more and more people who, with the passage of time, find their lives filled with regrets from both commission and omission. This includes regrets from bad decisions, but also from the things that we should have done but failed to do…the pain from both committing things that we wish we had not and from omitting the doing of things that we wish we had. As one man said to me, “I am haunted by all the missed opportunities in my life.” And then when you get to my age (60), you begin to see many come to the realization that they have been pursuing all the wrong dreams. “If I could only go back and live over again.” This is regret. This is about the past.
I have come to the conclusion that we have all kinds of junk and baggage in our lives. If we allow it to fester and go unattended, it can easily contaminate our souls and prevent us from living well in the present. It keeps us from a joyful, peaceful existence in the now.
But God instructs us to look reality in the eye and to deal with the past. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that we are to deal with the logs in our lives. (Mathew 7:5) Instead of doing so, He tells us, we would rather point out the flaws in the lives of others.
Also, we have a redeeming God who desires to restore His people. In the 23rd Psalm we are told “He restores my soul.” In the book of Ruth, we are told that He is “a restorer of life.” Restore means to take something that is broken and beaten up and to repair it. To restore means to take something new and whole as if it had never been damaged.
This is what He desires to do with our past, if we only will let Him.