The sound of a crunching leaf under my foot turns me into a pre-teen walking down the lane at church camp. Catching a whiff of Icy Hot gives me immediate shin splints and a nervous stomach as if I am once again a high school sophomore who must now get on the starting line of the track to run a half-mile race. Walking into a hospital makes my uterus contract (don’t make me explain this). So it shouldn’t have surprised me that seeing the pretty lighted snowflakes hung on our city’s downtown light poles this holiday season would bring up emotions from a few years ago at this time.
I remember loving the sight of the snowflakes that year, but feeling quite discouraged and therefore unable to be fully at peace in the moment. All was well overall in our lives, but there were a few uncertainties and decisions to be made. I remember being consumed by heavy thoughts that overshadowed my normally excited feelings about Christmas and threatened to steal away my joy of the season.
When I saw the lighted snowflakes this year, my mind was immediately taken back to that time. But just as quickly as those memories came back, God filled me with visions of all He’s done in our lives since that year. I saw all the ways God answered our prayers, showed us His power, and offered His constant provision. Boom. Take that, painful memories. We went through something hard. We not only survived, we came out stronger. God did His work in us.
The world tells us to leave the past behind. Never look back. Move forward. There’s a lot of good in this. After all, the Bible says in Philippians 3, “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.”
Indeed. Should we look back to dwell on a past full of regrets, pain, struggle? No, thank you. Let’s instead press on toward what God has already prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
But can I tell you something great about the beauty of taking time to look back in reflection of past struggles and difficult times? That’s when we can see all the ways God took care of us during that time and has met our needs since that time. Looking back helps us consider all the specifics of how His promises of provision and care have been fulfilled. Remembering His absolute faithfulness in the past helps us remember that we can trust His faithfulness in the future.
So never forget to look back. Look back with joy as you reflect on what God has brought you through up until now. Those hard times? You made it through! God did His work! His promises are faithful and we can trust Him!
As we look ahead toward a new year, we can be excited. I guarantee that a few years from now when we look back at this very time, we will have a new story to tell of God’s goodness and care. Now that’s something to look forward to.