Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…
If where I am is where God wants me to be then there is no place that I would rather be.
Whether my present circumstance is for my future gain or part of God’s complex eternal plan to bring about good for others matters little. I know that God is good, and that he is in control.
Do I believe that I am in fact where God wants me to be?
I know that years of prayer and blessings have led me to where I am. I know that I have intentionally sought the Lord’s will. I know that I strive to live with “open hands” from which God can remove anything and into which he can place anything.
I know that God is sovereign and can bring about his desired results with or without my willing participation, and that his ultimate will cannot be thwarted, even by my sinful unbelief. But this does not mean that my every action is necessarily in line with his will: I want God’s will to be done through me, and not despite me.
There may have been different steps I could have taken during my life that could have led different circumstances. But I think that my steps were undertaken with prayer and submission and I have confidence that they have been in line with God’s direction. More than that, I know that forgiveness because of grace covers even my missteps.
When viewed from the vantage point of the present, the past is not instructive for future direction. Paul exhorts, saying that the one thing he does is press toward the goal–forgetting what is behind. Forgetting what is behind is a prerequisite for straining toward what is ahead.
George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While this seems to make pragmatic sense, I am not sure this is particularly sound advise for the Christian. In scripture, exhortation to remember is always focused on remembering the Lord’s goodness and commands. The fallacy in Mr. Santayan’s now-cliché phrase is that outcomes, past and present, are not directly the result our doing but rather come from the hand of God. Our call is not to remember to avoid the mistakes of the past, but rather to remember the goodness and commands of God.
My past actions and those of fellow man serve only to demonstrate our sinful failings. Even if present circumstance exists in some measure due to past actions and decisions, our call is to repent and obey. Having repented and having been forgiven, the past serves only to hold us back from pressing forward.
Contemplation of the past brings anxiety, as it robs me of certainty that present circumstance is of God.
Lord, I trust in you. I resolve not to be anxious for the past, present or future. My present circumstance is in fact from you. You have sanctified me and forgiven me. Who I am and where I am presently is gift from you as much as the future of where you will send me and bring me. My specific and unique circumstances serve only one purpose: to provide the context in which your love and grace can be made manifest to me and those around me.
Let me forget the past. Let me remember you. Let me press forward toward the goal of your great prize for which you have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.