Look behind you...you are being followed. In fact we are all being followed. I'm not talking about 'Big Brother', or our shadow. No we are being followed by something far more important, something that has the capacity to shape who we are, and where we are going. But we do have a choice in what we allow to follow us.
Let me digress for a moment, to state that you and I have much in common. Though I haven't met some of you, I know that time is a factor in our lives. Oh I am not talking about how busy we find ourselves on any given day. No, I am thinking in linear terms, we all have a past, a present and a future.
I have observed that some of us tend to dwell on our past, mistakes we have made, regrets we have, past disappointments, the trials we have faced or injustices committed against us. We let them shape not only our present but our future. We allow them to follow us, and they start to haunt us, thwarting our spiritual growth. We have a hard time 'shaking it off', forgiving ourselves, or others. We live in the past, the disappointments and burdens end up being our constant companion. We forget all about pressing on toward being that new creature that Christ's blood makes us.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3: 13-14
to "forget what lies behind, and reach forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
He had quite the past, persecuting Christians, even having some put to death, before he had his life changing encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. Some interpret his words in Philippians as, don't look back. Period. Only look ahead. I am not so convinced. While we should not let our past, in particular our sins, or the trials we have had to bear follow us the rest of our lives, I believe a wise person will often look back and reflect on what God has taught them and the blessings that sprang forth from the trials of this life. Isn't that what Romans 8:28 teaches us? That God causes ALL things to work together for GOOD to those who love God? The same principle is found in the Old Testament, in Psalms 23. We are told there will be enemies, there will be evil, and there is that ominous valley of the shadow of death to deal with. But it also tells us that we have a Shepherd who will lead us, restore us, comfort us, feed us, anoint us. It also says that our cup will overflow and that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life. I don't know about you, but I would rather have goodness and mercy following me, than my past!
I want to share a comment that a reader shared from an earlier post of mine titled, "Beside Still Waters", based on Psalms 23. At the very end of the post, I wrote
I pray you will be refreshed by the word of God, and that you realize just how much your cup overflows. And if you look behind you, you just might see goodness and mercy following you.
To which Jennifer commented
I appreciate your thoughts. I'm especially drawn to the final sentence. I love looking back and reflecting on how all the challenges in my life have been nothing more than a brick on my path that have taken me to the place I find myself today and that without that part of my road, "ALL things" wouldn't have been there to "work together for good" in my life. Looking back I see so many prayers answered - not as I had asked, but as I had need in the big picture. Much goodness and more mercy than I deserve. It's humbling. It builds and reinforces my faith. It makes me love and want to serve God more each day. Thank you for helping me start my day off in such a positive way. I know it will make a difference in my life today.
Let me quote her again,
"LOOKING BACK, I see so many prayers answered-not as I had asked-but as I had need, in the big picture. Much goodness and more mercy than I deserve."
Thank you Jennifer, whom I don't know, for your words, and the permission to use them.
You have certainly looked back to see goodness and mercy following you. They have become your teachers and your companions. And I would venture to say, without even knowing you, that they shape how you see your present and your future.
I won't pretend to suggest that it is an easy process, that of seeing the good in all things.
No, it is rather difficult. While we are struggling in the midst of a trial, or a mistake we've made, it is so hard, almost impossible to see goodness and mercy in the situation. It is usually only when the storm has been weathered, when we look back, and reflect, that we so clearly see God's hand orchestrating good in our lives, turning what we see as no good and horrible into something wonderful, a blessing, the blessing of goodness and mercy following us through thick and thin, all the days of our life.
So, yes, press on, forgetting the past with it's disappointments, mistakes, and burdens. But in your pressing on, occasionally look back, just over your shoulder to all the blessings, all the goodness and mercy, that have followed you and shaped you into who you are today, a beloved child of the King.
I would love to hear your stories, of how God turned trials into blessings, of how goodness and mercy have followed you, if you feel led to share by commenting.