Dwelling on the Past

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Dwelling on the Past

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A wife asked her husband after 30 years of marriage, “Do you regret marrying me?” He looked at her and replied, “I’ve never thought about it,” and continued watching television. She just nodded her head in response. It seems like a simple question to ask, but what if he had answered differently? How would the wife’s response have been then? A positive answer might have made her happy, but a negative one could have spilled over into an argument or worse. And what if the spouse answered positively but actually lied because he too was looking back?

God has plans for us and we should be preparing to reach the goal He is setting, not getting all wrapped up in self-pity or being self-centered.

Dwelling on the past is often a way to escape the present. We may not like our lives the way they are, and we have happy memories of how things were long ago. Maybe we were in love, but the relationship failed and we just cannot let go. It could be that we hate our job and regret leaving the company we worked for before. There are even those who dwell on living at a time in the past before they were born. They believe it was a better time, and they would have been happier living in another decade or century. These are just a few examples of why people let their minds reside elsewhere.

On occasion, it is nice to look back at memories, and it’s even fun to think about traveling to the past and maybe seeing Christ or the temple of God in Jerusalem. But if it gets to be an obsession, changes our actions or makes us depressed, it can be an issue. Dwelling on the past or looking back has always been a problem for God’s people. When God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his wife had to leave, but they were told to not look back. It was not so much to keep them from seeing what was happening but to have them forget the sinful city from which they came. Lot’s wife could not let it go. She surely had become accustomed to life there and regretted leaving some of her children behind, so she looked back and was punished (Genesis 19:1-26 Genesis 19:1-26 1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and you shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, No; but we will abide in the street all night. 3 And he pressed on them greatly; and they turned in to him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called to Lot, and said to him, Where are the men which came in to you this night? bring them out to us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door to them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brothers, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out to you, and do you to them as is good in your eyes: only to these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with you, than with them. And they pressed sore on the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. 10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. 11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. 12 And the men said to Lot, Have you here any besides? son in law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whatever you have in the city, bring them out of this place: 13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD has sent us to destroy it. 14 And Lot went out, and spoke to his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked to his sons in law. 15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take your wife, and your two daughters, which are here; lest you be consumed in the iniquity of the city. 16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold on his hand, and on the hand of his wife, and on the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful to him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. 17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for your life; look not behind you, neither stay you in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed. 18 And Lot said to them, Oh, not so, my LORD: 19 Behold now, your servant has found grace in your sight, and you have magnified your mercy, which you have showed to me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: 20 Behold now, this city is near to flee to, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. 21 And he said to him, See, I have accepted you concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which you have spoken. 22 Haste you, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till you be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. 23 The sun was risen on the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. 24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground. 26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
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).

The children of Israel were also a people that could not stop dwelling on the past. After being miraculously rescued from slavery, they continually complained of how much better things had been when they were in Egypt. They seemed to forget they had been slaves and were the ones crying to God in the first place (Exodus 3:7-9 Exodus 3:7-9 7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good land and a large, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come to me: and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.
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). The minute things got tough they longed to go back to Egypt and often whined to Moses (e.g. Numbers 14:4 Numbers 14:4And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
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; Exodus 14:11 Exodus 14:11And they said to Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? why have you dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
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). That’s what can happen to us. We get uncomfortable and convince ourselves things were so much better before than they are now. Most of the time it just is not true.

The lost love

I once knew a girl who could not give up her first love. She quietly agonized over him for years, even more than a decade. She cried about losing him, she imagined herself running into him and the two falling in love once again. She searched for him on the Internet and asked people if they had heard from him. She never did find him, but in the process, she was ruining her marriage. Her husband himself never knew how she felt. When speaking to others she was always comparing him to her ex and treating him more as a friend then her husband. It was sad, it was eating her up inside, and it was no way to live. Many people have ended up divorced for this same reason. They will not let go of a past that they cannot go back to. It is something we do to ourselves, in our minds, and we do not belong there.

We as Christians can also become lost. Our focus gets jumbled and we look back at what could have been. In the process, we can push God away or put Him on the back burner while we focus on the imaginary. We are told to stay focused on what is ahead and leave what is in the past behind (Philippians 3:13-14 Philippians 3:13-14 13 Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
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; Isaiah 43:18 Isaiah 43:18Remember you not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
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; Luke 9:62 Luke 9:62And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
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). When we allow our minds to dwell on the past we are of little use to anyone, including God.

Allowing ourselves to get caught up in “what if” scenarios, or wishing to be somewhere else does not serve us well. It is a useless pursuit. This time, this place is where God is working with us right now. God has plans for us and we should be preparing to reach the goal He is setting, not getting all wrapped up in self-pity or being self-centered. We need to change our focus. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 1 Peter 1:13Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
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).