Thinking Back and Looking Forward
It’s graduation time! Even though seniors all over our country are having to find alternative ways to celebrate, graduation is an opportunity to recognize past accomplishments and look forward to the future with anticipation. When our daughters graduated from high school, we spent hours combing through old photos to display during their graduation parties. Thinking back over those years was cathartic. My emotions were all over the place as I recalled times of joy and times of heartache. Every experience had been used to shape my girls into the young women God was calling them to be.
I’m grateful I took the time to think back. It gave me an opportunity to fully appreciate how much they had grown and how ready they were to take the next step into adulthood. I didn’t worry about their future. I knew they were ready, and I looked forward to what God was going to orchestrate in their lives. He had been faithful in the past, and I knew He would be faithful in the future.
Thinking back and looking forward is not just for graduates. All of us could benefit from this practice, especially now. When many of us think back on this year, all we can seem to remember is the last two months. It is hard to even recall what happened the first seven months of school! It is not uncommon to hear someone recommend that we leave the past behind us and focus on the future. While I agree this is important, I believe there is also much to be gained by reflecting on our past (like the graduating senior). It provides us with an opportunity to see how much we’ve grown and to celebrate God’s faithfulness in our lives.
The Bible tells us when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, He works in our hearts to transform us into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Day-by-day as we seek, obey, and trust Him, the Holy Spirit goes to work making our attitudes, character, and conduct more like Jesus. Without taking time to intentionally think back, we may not recognize how much God is changing us. I find it empowering to be able to say, “A year ago, I would have said something negative, but I don’t respond in that manner anymore. God is teaching me to be quick to hear and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Perhaps there is someone reading this blog who can look back and say, “Instead of assuming the worst, I am learning God is sovereign, and I don’t have to worry” (Philippians 4:6-7). Recognizing the work of the Spirit in our lives enables us to own and celebrate our new self. We don’t have to hold onto the old version of ourselves.
Think back to August of 2019. As yourself some key questions.
· How has God been faithful?
· When did He intervene at just the right time?
· How have you grown?
· What has God changed in your heart and mind?
· What did you do in the past that you don’t do anymore?
· How have your responses to others changed?
I would encourage you to start a “growth” journal. Keep track of God’s faithfulness; make note of how He is changing you. Thank Him for His work in your life! If you are struggling to identify areas of growth, know you are not alone. I can remember seasons in my life where my time with the Lord was relegated to the back burner. I have no good excuses as to why. During those times it would have been hard for me to answer these questions. If this is the case for you, don’t get discouraged. Just fix it, but not because I said so. Fix it so God can make you more like Jesus. It will enable you to look forward with great hope and anticipation.
Many of you have probably heard this famous quote.
The past is like using your rear-view mirror in the car. It’s good to glance back and see how far you’ve come, but if you stare too long, you’ll miss what’s right in front of you.
Thinking back allows us to see the hand of God in our past, but we cannot remain in the past. Looking forward grants us the opportunity to see God’s hand in the future. If we are not careful, however, looking forward can be an anxious time, especially if the future is uncertain. This seems to be the case for many educators today. Speculations regarding how education may change can overwhelm our thinking. We need to exercise caution. Looking forward can be frightening if we have a worldly mindset. Given the overload of information readily accessible to us, it is so easy to look at our circumstances through a worldly lens which only fuels our fears. This is something we must actively guard against.
As Christians, we don’t have to fear the future. We can look forward to it! I am reminded of the time that Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure. He had just told him He would be going away. He knew their immediate future would cause them to question and fear. He wanted to reassure them, and I believe He wants to reassure us, too.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33
When we keep our eyes on Jesus, looking forward is invigorating. We can actually be excited about the future! Jesus assures us that we can be confident, undaunted, and filled with joy! Why? He has overcome the world! He is in control, and His purposes will prevail (Isaiah 14:24).
As summer approaches, take a little time to think back and reflect on this past year. I have no doubt God’s activity in your life will be easy to recognize. Let God’s faithfulness fire you up as you look forward to the future!
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. Ephesians 1:18-19