Devotions for a New Year #8: Forgetting Past Failures (Philippians 3:12-15)
“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…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on ...”—Philippians 3:12, 13b-14a (NIV).
As we get older, we tend to forget. Yet forgetting can sometimes be a difficult thing to do—especially for memories deeply entrenched in our minds. In this passage, however, we are admonished to do some forgetting. This verse doesn’t provide an excuse for forgetting an anniversary, a birthday, or answers to a quiz. But there are certain things that should not occupy space in our brain’s memory banks.
Some forget-worthy things are past mistakes and failures. We all have things we wish we’d done differently, or not at all. This fallibility is part of what makes us human; it comes from the God-given ability to make choices. God knows that we have the capacity to do things poorly, to fail at what we attempt, and to sin. When the Bible tells us to forget, these negative events are prime candidates. We don’t want to forget the lessons we learned through bad experiences. But it often takes only once for a child to put a hand on a hot stove to learn to stay away. So why do many of us return to the fire daily?
So we lost our job…our relationship didn’t work out…we fell into the trap of temptation...we experienced a reversal of our finances…we did something to bring embarrassment or shame…a business venture didn’t succeed…we hurt others. At the risk of sounding insensitive, let me offer this advice: Get over it! You may remember this old song that was part of a recurring comedy routine on the “Hee Haw” television program from years ago: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” We could all sing that song at some point. Yet we should not dwell on what went wrong and thus carry our negative state with us into the present. God gives new mercies for each new day (Lamentations 3:22-23)!
Becoming consumed with “what if” and “if only” is not productive. Why occupy our minds with events that we cannot altar? I could spend all day recalling things that I wish had gone differently, but that rumination will not change the outcome; instead, it only offers wrinkles and gray hair, and those come quickly enough on their own. Dwelling on the past cripples us—in fact, it sometimes paralyzes us: through hesitation, through fear, and through inactivity. By constantly checking the rear-view mirror, we miss the view of future possibilities.
This new year, resolve (or “determine” if you prefer that word) to forget past failures and regrets. Learn the lesson, but move past the event. We will explore this passage further in the days to come.
Prayer for the Day:
Father, turn my eyes from the past. Help me not to dwell upon the things I cannot change but may my gaze be upon the prize waiting ahead. In the name of Jesus, amen
I would like to add: there is a reason the rear view mirror is small and the front windshield is big. Look forward!!!