Home  »   Viewpoints  »   Views on Issues  »   Article

You Can Overcome Your Past

By Maria Fontaine

Most of the unpleasant things that happen to us are like bruises or minor scrapes to our spirits, but at some time or another most of us experience a deep wound or serious injury to our spirit. We can't always keep ourselves from being hurt.

Like minor injuries to our bodies that leave a bruise but only hurt for a short while, most of our daily annoyances may temporarily make us "black" with negative thinking or "blue" with discouragement but are usually forgotten fairly quickly. We know they will eventually heal.

When we suffer a serious physical injury, we go immediately to a physician who can properly tend to it. We have the wound cleansed and properly bandaged so that it's protected, and sometimes need to have it checked regularly to make sure it's healing properly. Even then, it may take some time to heal.

This is an illustration of how our spiritual wounds can heal with faith, prayer, and proper care. But if we don't allow them to be cleansed and healed in the proper way, if we try to hide our wounds or don't cooperate with those who can and want to help us, our wounds can become infected with bitterness and resentment that can spread and poison the whole body. If left untended, they can affect our spiritual life, our happiness, our faith, and our general well-being.

Bitterness doesn't usually develop immediately; it festers and grows over time, like an infection in a wound. Bitterness is like the Devil's infectious mess, festering and silently destroying healthy areas it comes in contact with if it's not purged from the body. Therefore, just as we should immediately pay careful attention to a serious physical injury, we should immediately take care of serious spiritual wounds.

The Bible teaches that we should empty our hearts of things in the past or the present that bother us: "Let us search out and examine our ways" (Lamentations 3:40). "Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives" (Hebrews 12:15 TLB).

The Bible encourages us to seek help and support from those more mature in faith, and to confess our faults one to another and pray one for another (James 5:14,16). When it comes to getting rid of bitterness and leaving behind the negative things that are in your past, it greatly helps to get help from someone who is strong in faith and God's Word. Once you've gotten the problem out in the open and received prayer and counsel based on God's Word, you can much more easily forgive, forget, and move on.

You can overcome your past! You can experience a real freedom from the hurts and negative feelings that weigh you down. Past circumstances do not have to dictate your present outlook, because God has made a way for you to overcome the negative in your life. In fact, He intends for you to!

The Bible says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). In other words, the more we get immersed in Jesus and His Word and learn to do things His way, the more old things will pass away and the more things will become new. It doesn't happen all at once, but as we put our will on His side, more and more things from the past that used to plague us become less painful and less important.

It's a popular trend in the world today for people to blame all their present problems on others or events from their past--their parents, their siblings, their peers, their environment, their heredity--rather than on the personal choices they have made. A lot of people buy into this way of thinking because it is decidedly easier on their pride than accepting that they are wrong in being bitter against someone or something.

However, the Christian life is all about overcoming obstacles, rising above our circumstances, and not letting things get us down. It's about making stepping stones out of stumbling blocks. It's about being healed in body and mind through faith, becoming whole through the Lord's love, and becoming free from the bondage of bitterness and resentment through God's Word. It's about letting Jesus resolve and override problems carried over from the past by His renewing and transforming of our mind (Romans 12:2).

Some of our problems may indeed be wholly or partly the result of things that happened in our childhood or adult past. We are all products of our environment to some extent, and as such have been influenced positively in some respects and negatively in others. No one in this world has had completely positive experiences; everyone has had at least some difficulties and hurts caused by past experiences, some of which have been long lasting. But the important thing for you to remember is that you can ask the Lord for help in overcoming any problems caused by past hurts. These things do not have to continue to control you or even influence you emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

The Lord and His Word put the responsibility on each of us for how we react to whatever situations we find ourselves in. God has given each person a free will and free choice, and is constantly asking us to make the right decisions and to take the right steps. When we do, He is right there to see us through.

The fact that we can have some measure of control over the way we are is obvious when we look at different individuals who have experienced some big setbacks in life, perhaps even much greater than our own. Some react in one way and some in another, and as a result, turn out to be very different types of people leading very different lives. Despite their past, some are happy, healthy, successful and well adjusted, while others are just the opposite--depressed, unhappy, discontented, or disturbed.

Those who have experienced difficulties in life and have overcome them are often able to be a great influence in helping many others have the courage and faith to overcome their difficulties. Their examples are proof to those who see and hear of their struggles and victories that it is possible to overcome great difficulties in life and rise above seemingly impossible situations, to triumph in the face of despair.

Many of these "problems" in your life should be looked at as "growing pains." Sadly, many people often don't understand them as such, but instead blame God for things that seem to have gone wrong. Somehow, they think God is not responsible for all the good in their life; He's only responsible for the bad. Their relationship with the Lord is completely contrary to how it should be: They don't give Him praise and credit for the good times, but they complain and blame Him in bad times. But the Bible says, "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

When God allows us to suffer hurts or trials or losses, it's always for an important purpose. He also very carefully measures out our burdens so they are never too much for us to bear--only enough to bring out the sweetness and valuable changes and lessons in our lives.

According to God's Word, all trials are designed to strengthen us (1 Peter 4:12-13; 5:10). Think about it. If your entire life were problem-free, you might become complacent and never build the strength of character that comes from fighting to overcome problems. And you probably wouldn't be able to relate to and have compassion on others who have gone through the same thing (2 Corinthians 1:4).

You might miss the beautiful miracle that takes place when you discover that you really need Jesus in your life. You might never learn that you can always find strength in Him when you have no place else to turn. You might never experience the thrill of having God come through for you and supply the answers you need to carry on.

God wants "your joy to be full" (John 15:11), and He knows that the secret to that joy lies in forgiving those who have wronged you, letting go of bitterness and resentment, and forgetting the past. It is possible for you to overcome!