I praised God when our pastor encouraged those who had accepted Christ as savior this past year to come forward and light a candle during the Christmas service. I was thrilled to see children and adults of all ages had made that significant life-changing decision this year.
For years after I became a Christian, I struggled with the thought, “If only I had become a Christian sooner!” After all, I reasoned, coming to Christ sooner would have given me God’s guidelines for marriage and for raising our two daughters. The eight years of marriage before I knew Christ were rough ones. And adding two children hadn’t helped!
I’m not alone… I have found that many women struggle with the “if only’s” — If only I had gone to college… If only I hadn’t made that decision… If only…
“If only” thinking is counterproductive. How is that? Because it only breeds remorse. The backward gaze produces regret and sorrow because it is impossible to return to the past or change it.
God calls us to deal with what is now, what is true, and what is real. The past is gone. You cannot alter it. But, what is real is what is happening today. So we must challenge ourselves to stop “if only” thinking, knowing that there is no value in rehashing it.
Here’s something else to note. When you succumb to “if only” thinking, you fail to acknowledge God’s role in your past. You are ignoring the fact that God was there with you. He was with you then… just as He is with you today… and will be with you tomorrow (Psalm 73:23-24).
The good news is that our heavenly Father does indeed use our past. The great truth of Romans 8:28-29 is God’s promise that any and all “negative” events in the past will be “overruled” and worked for good to make you more like Christ. By His transforming power, God will redeem even the worst, the most painful, and the most perplexing aspects of your past.
I’ve seen God redeem the suffering and the terrible trials in many people’s lives, and I’m sure you have too. In fact, some of the saints I know who graciously and continually extend God’s gentleness, peace, and encouragement to others are those who have tasted pain. God, in His goodness and power, has used their experiences to make them more Christ-like, and He is truly gloriﬁed in their lives.
But also note these exceptions to reflections on your past: 1) It is good to remember what we’ve learned from our mistakes. Those lessons are pearls of wisdom. 2) It is also good to recall God’s marvelous works and gracious faithfulness to us in our past difficulties. We should look back and remember how God enabled us in our times of need. Our faith in God is strengthened when we recall how God brought us through our trials, how He taught us on the mountains and in the valleys of life.
Psalm 77, says we are to meditate on God’s goodness in the past whenever the trials of the present seem overwhelming. At such a time, the poet declared, “I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (verse 11). So when you are faced with “if only” thinking and look back at your past… do so only with an eye to appreciate God’s faithfulness!
A Prayer to Pray: Lord, I can be hard on myself, but You have forgiven me and You love me. Work in me to release the past and move on into your glorious plan for my life. And, guide me through this new your to live according to your will and purpose.
For more encouragement for your soul read, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.