By Roger Campbell, author, broadcaster columnist and pastor for 22 years
Satchel Paige, the baseball diamond philosopher of another era, gained national recognition for his rules for successful living. The most frequently quoted of these was “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”
Paul, the apostle, agreed, saying he had decided to forget things of the past that might hold him back, choosing instead to reach forward to the challenges before him (Philippians 3:13). He wanted to make the most of his future and knew this would be impossible if he allowed past mistakes to monopolize his mind and emotions.
Leaving bad baggage behind may be questioned by some when the practice of scrutinizing every experience of the past for solutions to present problems is so accepted. But, according to the Bible, some things are best forgotten.
We can forget what God has forgiven.
In his helpful article, “Pulling through Depression,” counselor Craig Massey, says “Many people are depressed because they dwell on some incident in the past, perhaps some mistake they made. Granted, in many cases the thing they did was wrong. But that sin should not destroy the future. God forgives and helps us to go on.”
Forgiveness erases all guilt, assuring a clean slate for all our tomorrows, placing the past forever behind us and turning away all accusing fingers, hopefully including our own. Why should we live with guilt over past sins when we have asked the Lord to forgive them? To do so is, in effect, calling God a liar. He has promised to forgive those who confess their sins to Him (1 John 1:9) and this should settle the question, clearing the record and enabling us to expect the New Year to be filled with promise rather than pain.
We ought to leave all of our emotional wounds behind. The tragedy of carrying hurt feelings into a New Year is compounded by the number of losers it produces. You lose because the grudge you carry and coddle takes away your peace of mind, robbing you of sleep and making you less efficient in all you do. The object of your bitterness loses your friendship. And your church loses the warmth and power that results from all the members of the congregation being united in love.
Let’s leave last year’s failures behind.
Only those who never attempt anything escape failure. To quote Craig Massey again: “Sometimes depression grows from dwelling on a past failure. A failure that has produced a great disappointment spawns a defeatist attitude and this in turn produces further failures.” We should live from victory to victory, not from defeat to defeat.
Leaving last year’s baggage behind requires faith. We don’t know what the future holds, but we can know the One who holds the future. This kind of confidence in God will enable us to break free from regrets about the past and focus on the opportunities this year will bring.
Many waste their lives looking back and ever longing for a replay of the past so they can make adjustments. They’d like to rewind the tape of life in order to get a better education, enter a different field of business or employment, marry a different wife or husband; even refuse to move to the area in which they now find themselves.
Looking back weighs us down with guilt and despair. Looking up to the forgiving One enables us to leave last year’s bad baggage behind.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org