How the Past Can Cloud the Present

Regrets are like constantly reviewing the rain behind us as we adjust our rearview mirror, putting us in danger of hitting the cars in front of us. Regrets are a dangerous form of worry, and so is another hazardous mental occupation: bitterness.

If worry is to mull over and over again a fear or concern about the future, then regrets are worry over something we did in the past. Bitterness is worry over something someone else did in the past. Both regret and bitterness can create a car accident as we stare too long into the rearview mirror of life.

Regrets and bitterness are sin, just like any form of worry, because they both represent a state of discontent and a lack of trust in God. What can we do to fight against these forms of worry that keep us looking in the rearview mirror?

Remember, But Don’t Regret

The apostle Paul could easily have struggled with regrets. He certainly had a lot to regret and also a lot to be bitter about towards others. For himself, he was instrumental in helping to persecute and kill Christians. Then, after coming to know Christ, he was misunderstood and rejected by Christians.

Yet he was able to write, Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB).

Paul is not saying his readers shouldn’t remember the past. What he is saying is that Christians shouldn’t be held captive by the past, which could include past accomplishments, past heritage, past sins that have been forgiven, or past hurts that others had done to them.

Nothing, not even worry in the form of regret, will change the past.

Remember, But Forgive

The key is to forgive—forgive ourselves and forgive others. No, we may not be able to forget, but we can forgive.

Bitterness and resentment continue your pain. You may be thinking, I’m getting back at them with my negative thinking, but think about it—the person who hurt you is off on his or her merry way, oblivious to your negative thinking.

When we become convinced we must forgive, we can make the decision to do so. No, it won’t feel good and it won’t be easy, but you can do it by thinking (or preferably saying out loud), “I forgive (name of person).” You can apply this to yourself for your regrets too.

Once you make the decision to forgive yourself or someone else, know that it’s like peeling an onion. There will be many layers to take off. If the old feelings of bitterness or resentment return, that doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven that person. It just means you need to peel off another layer of bitterness by making that choice again and again.

Remember, But Look Forward

Regrets and bitterness can easily fill our lives, especially if we’ve lived a long time. The longer we’ve been driving through life and seen the rain in the rearview mirror, the more our vision can be clouded with regrets and bitterness.

God doesn’t want us to be “yesterday” people; He wants us to be “today” and “tomorrow” people, because that’s how we get vision.

Regrets can be covered by Jesus’ redeeming blood. Bitterness can be released as we choose to forgive. The worry of regrets and bitterness need not control us. God wants to provide the hope and power we need. Let’s make a commitment to refuse to look in the rearview mirror and focus on the drive before us.

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Your Turn

Join the conversation by adding your comments below!

In what ways is your past clouding your present?


PartlyCloudyWithScatteredWorries

by Kathy Miller

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KathyCollardMillerKathy Miller wanted to be a writer when she was a teenager; she just didn’t know what it looked like. As a young mom, she took a community writer’s class and learned about a query letter. She sent one off and as a result, sold her first article. Then she went to a writer’s conference and three years later, her first book was published. It was called, Out of Control, and told the story of how God delivered her from being a child abuser. Now over 30 years later, she has 49 published books and a fiftieth contracted. She loves writing and speaking. Miller has spoken in 30 states and seven foreign countries. Her passion is to help Christians trust God more and to help others know how much God loves them. She lives in Southern California with her husband, Larry, of 43 years. They have written books together and spoken together on marriage.

About Be the Light Editor

Martin Wiles is a minister, author, freelance editor, and English teacher who lives in Greenwood, SC. He is the founder of Love Lines from God and is the author of Grits & Grace and God and Grits, Gumbo and Going to Church. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions (www.christiandevotions.us) and Assistant Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three.