In this holiday season, as I pull out boxes and unpack ornaments, it’s a little like a time capsule. I remember the times over the years when I purchased the keepsakes—hopefully to remember something that seemed important like a trip, or an event, or a school picture crammed into a tiny frame. It’s made me wonder if looking backwards is good or bad. Like many things, it depends.
There is a looking back that’s Biblical. It’s a remembering of all that God has done. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.” Even when I was not serving God, He was present, drawing me to Himself, making a way. God chose my parents. He chose the town I lived in, the school I attended, the people who would one day tell me about a loving Savior. I may have not liked everything, but He was working it all together for purpose. For this, I should never stop looking back and giving thanks.
I find it shockingly easy to forget the good things God has done. I have two 20-something year old children. And like most parents, it’s easy to talk about them. Ask me anything…what foods they like…what shows they watch…. something funny they did when they were little…. I will have an answer. What I don’t often talk about is how unlikely it is that I should ever have been a parent at all. Almost seven years into my marriage, in my late 30’s, after two surgeries for level four Endometriosis, I finally accepted the fact that the odds were dramatically against me ever having a child. We were well into the long, difficult process of being approved as adoptive parents, when I found myself alone, reading Exodus 23:25. It says, “And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” That was me! I literally had sickness in the middle of my body. I wasn’t really thinking about the infertility, but I was weary of the pain and inconvenience involved with the disease. In earnest, I asked God to heal me. The next month, I found out we were expecting our first child, and I never had issues with Endometriosis again.
So, I ask myself, how would I feel about someone who showed a fleeting remembrance or little appreciation for an extraordinary gift I might have given. A person who doubted my goodness even when I had only shown kindness. It would not make me want to show generosity toward them again. I wonder if this is what I am like toward God? I so quickly forget, get distracted, and take for granted His kindness and generosity.
There is another type of looking back that does not honor God. In Luke 9:62 it says, “And Jesus said unto him, ‘No man, having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus said these words to those who made excuses. They said they wanted to be His disciples, but they had loose ends to tie up and “might follow Him some day in the distant future.” They were looking back to see what they might miss out on by following Jesus. This made them not worthy. Following Jesus requires immediacy. Doing what He says to do when He says to do it. What counts is what we do today, not what we promise to do tomorrow.
Here are three things I try to do to bring me back to reality:
- Determine to follow God today and not look back. If God’s kindness does not bring me into relationship with Him, then there is no meaning or lasting purpose in life. Romans 2:4, “Or despitheth thou the riches of His goodness and forebearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.”
- Remember and rehearse God’s goodness. Psalm 77:11-12, “I will remember the works of the Lord. Surely, I will remember thy works of old. I will meditate also of all thy work. And talk of thy doings.”
- Give back. John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Giving to others honors God and shows appreciation for His blessings, but it also has the added bonus of helping me to be in the right mindset. It’s hard to be depressed or sad when helping others.
So not just this holiday season, but always, give thanks for the greatest gift of all by pressing forward with determination, looking back with gratitude, and reaching out to others in Christ’s name.
May God bless you with His richest blessings this Christmas and in the New Year.
— Written by Jill