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The Power of Forgetting Our Past

August 04, 2011

The key to life change is forgetting, not remembering. Try remembering that next time you are sitting with a friend or counselor who is digging deeply into your past in the hopes of impacting your future for good. Consider the life of Joseph. If anyone was a candidate for ten years of therapy because of a painful past, it was Joseph. This guy was coddled by his father, pampered as the youngest, and ridiculed and ultimately rejected by his brothers. Finally, at one point his eleven brothers stripped him naked, threw him into a pit, then hauled him out and sold him as a slave in Egypt. Now would that mess with your mind? Then Joseph got a job in Egypt; he was working hard and trying to build a life for himself when his boss’s wife flipped out and falsely accused him of trying to have sex with her. Sounds like the Jerry Springer show. Unable to defend himself, Joseph was chained up in some rat-infested prison and completely forgotten for several years.

Now you would think that Joseph would be messed up for life or certainly would need endless hours of therapy to process all that pain. Yet the Bible teaches something quite different. In all of it, Joseph saw a sovereign God who was at work. Was Joseph devastated at times? Yes, but he was not destroyed. Was there pain and loneliness and heartache and, at times, despair? Yes, but Joseph found a better way to deal with his pain. He would forget the injustice, trust a wise and sovereign God, and move ahead with his life.

In Genesis 45:8, Joseph looked into the eyes of the brothers who did so much to hurt him and said,
It was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Just to make sure the point is made, the Scripture quotes Joseph affirming that message once more in Genesis 50:20. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.” Did they sin against him? Yes! Was it evil? Yes! But did God use it for Joseph’s good? Yes! God did. As a confirmation that Joseph found healing by forgetting his past, he named his first son Manasseh, which means “the Lord made me forget.”

Why not ask God for the grace to forget your past? This digging-up-the-past thing is a worldly and unbiblical method for life transformation. True heart change is not about remembering, and it’s not about digging up things that may or may not have even happened! It’s about forgiving and forgetting. It’s about trusting a sovereign God. It’s about focusing in on my own need to change and saying with the apostle Paul, “forgetting those things which are behind” (Philippians 3:13).

Is it important to deal with your past? Absolutely! God doesn’t want us to pretend. He wants us to face our past and to deal with it by focusing on forgiveness, and putting it behind us. The answer is not in the past and no process of myopically scouring our past will lead to the change our heart desires. God’s plan for your past is that you would honestly assess it and then displace it through forgiveness.  If you have been trying to change by going over and over your past, get a big green plastic bag and put that approach to health and healing where it belongs.

>> For more on forgiveness, download “Have the Funeral” from the Resources page.


Read comments:

  • Angel YoungSep.27.2011

    Dear Pastor James,

    Today I am happy to share that I am choosing to forgive!! September 27, 2011!! Your message on forgiveness was so timely. God had appropriated to me through your podcast right after I had totally come to the end of everything I knew to do with a situation. I worked through your attitudes study this summer and am currently in the biblestudy “Always True” God’s promises. As the situation I’m referring to started to spin out of control I ended up like the guy in the parable who had a mental melt town…verbally I had another person by the throat as all 6 of the damaging emotion erupted into one big ball of anger…..when I started listening to your podcast the following week after the meltdown, God started working on me through your unforiveness sermons and the sermon on “Revelation 10″…God spoke and I ordered the cd “Have the Funeral”!! So today as I finished up listening and journaling the whole way through the cds. I had the funeral and I feel totally free!! I know I’m in process, but I also am standing on God’s promise and remaining sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and am finally leaving the past behind. Thank you so MUCH!!

  • Angel YoungSep.27.2011

    I had to reply more on the subject of unforgiveness. James I’ve read through some of the messages up there and you know those people are so leaning on their own understanding!! I’m so thankful that in conjunction with hearing your sermon on unforgiveness I was also in your biblestudy on God’s promises and my memory verse for this week was Proverbs 3:5-6 Lean not on your own understanding…God is so good to have rolled all this out in my life so that….so that…I could not try to reason it till the cows come home less I spend another 40 years in the dessert with an unforgiving attitude!! You keep up the good work and I mean that with lots of punch!!! Eternal work!! Us here in Quincy are reaping big benefits from your endless search of the scriptures!!!

    To say thank you does not even seem enough!!

    Angel in Quincy Il, I attend the Crossing Church


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