Imagine setting out for a hike on a beautiful day. You have all the necessities for nourishment and survival – snacks, water, pocket knife, a first aid kit, flashlight, cell phone, etc. But —JUST IN CASE— you also decided to pack your favorite magazines, your iPad, your instant smoothie maker, your cordless curling iron and you toss in your favorite pillow. Sounds a little unnecessary, right? Why would you need all of that extra weight for a one day hike? Why would you even want to carry it around?
But isn’t that what we do with the pain of our past?
In our “backpack” of life we carry around painful memories, hurt, shame, unforgiveness, offense, guilt, and more. This load weighs us down. It makes us feel defeated, unworthy, not good enough, lost. And our self-worth, dreams, and purpose keep shrinking under the weight of it all, because we don’t know how to “unpack” it. Or, we simply are afraid to. You might be thinking WHY? Why go back? Here are some reasons to consider:
1. Angry reactions can often be an indicator of an unhealed past.
Have you ever had an emotional explosion over something someone said to you, perhaps the way they touched you, or the way they did something that took you immediately back to a painful memory? Our reactions have roots. If you react to something in the present in an “out of proportion” way given the circumstances, and everyone around you is completely taken aback and confused by your behavior, this might be signaling to you that it’s time to look deeper into why you are being triggered.
2. An unhealed past can keep us ‘stuck’ in the past.
The painful memories of our past can be unsuspecting containers for lies we presently believe that were formed when we first experienced the pain. These lies, such as “I’m not good enough”, “I can’t be trusted”, “I am not worthy to be loved by anyone”, “I’m stupid” or “I am a disappointment”, keep us stuck in a defeating and debilitating mindset that can negatively color how we view ourselves, others, and even our relationship with God. Continuing to live our past narrative in the present is why we feel stuck.
In Philippians 4:12-14, Paul says this: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
In the original Greek, the word forget here means to “put out of one’s mind”. In other words, “do not let what’s behind you inhibit you from moving forward and onward toward the goal”. Paul was a murderer and the #1 accuser of Christians before he met Jesus. That is a past that could trouble anyone! But when He encountered Jesus and surrendered his life to Him, he was forgiven of the mistakes of his past, healed of the shame and guilt, and called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. What Paul is saying in these verses is that when his past condemns him he “puts it out of his mind” by taking hold of the truth of what Christ has done for him.
Jesus paid for the sins of our pasts–what we did or what was done to us–on the cross! Receiving the forgiveness, redemption, healing, and restoration available to us and applying it to our painful memories will move us from being stuck to being set free!
3. When we are willing to take a step back into the past, we can then invite God to reveal what needs to heal.
When we, with God’s help, open back up painful chapters of our stories, we will not only be able to discover what still needs healing so we can move forward, but we will be able to see where God was at work in our stories. Even when we couldn’t see Him working or feel His presence, He was there. Over and over in the Psalms, David, in his brokenness and despair, often cried out like this:
How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.
Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV)
But look at how David ends his plea. Even in the midst of his lament, he leans into the truth. He chooses to trust in God’s unfailing love and the joy of his salvation. Even in his pain he can still sing praise because he can see how God has been good to him.
A healed past unleashes a hope-filled future.
When we can embrace and engage with our story, we can move forward. When we can begin to read our story through God’s eyes, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free! The resistance and fear we have is normal. We think going back will cause us more pain, and unravel us to a point that we may not recover. But, in reality, we will have less pain, because God will bring purpose out of the pain, just like He did for Paul and David.
And we do not have to do it alone! Asking a trusted friend or mentor to walk with you, or joining a safe community like a Reclaimed Story group, can help give you courage, support and resources you may need to walk through the pain of your past. And with the promise of hope and healing up ahead, we will be able to take our first steps on the road to reclaiming our stories. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it to be set free!
Unpacking The Pain Of Our Past Together,
No matter what is in your past, there is hope for a better and brighter future! Our “My Future Is Bigger Than My Past” necklace is a great piece to wear to remind you of just that. And it’s on SALE this month! You can find it HERE at our Reclaimed Story Store.