Forgetting is generally considered a bad thing. “Don’t forget to take your umbrella.” “I forgot to take my medicine this morning.” “I’m sorry I forgot your birthday.” “Honey did you forget to pay the light bill?” But there is a kind of forgetting we need to learn, a kind of forgetting that is good: forgetting what is behind us.
Most people’s minds immediately jump to the thought of putting our sins behind us, our former ways of living. We are told to throw off these burdens of sin that seek to entangle us again. (Hebrews 12:1) We need to consider past actions and old sin habits that weigh us down in our “new life” journey with Christ, and chose to put these down, to make them part of our past behavior not our present. We also have to lay down the guilt and shame associated with those sins. The enemy of our souls will keep us wallowing in shameful, guilty memories for years if we don’t wake up and stop ourselves! This is false guilt ladies. If we have repented and turned from our wickedness we do not have a reason to feel guilty. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) And if He purifies us from unrighteousness, them we are cleansed and made new and free from shame or guilt. Our sins are covered by Jesus’ blood.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
We also realize that forgiving and forgetting a grudge we’re holding against someone is a very important thing to do. A thing to put behind us. We all know “Forgive and You will be forgiven.” Forgiving and forgetting those actions that caused wounds in our past can be huge and difficult to do. Especially if they are abuses perpetrated on us by people close to us who were supposed to love and protect us. They are called wounds for a reason; they require healing. To heal and grow requires doing the hard, heart work in our quiet place with God to put these big things behind us.
But I believe these things are just the foundation of our forgetting. There is so much more to the concept of “forgetting what is behind.” There are floors and floors to our forgetting “building” that we may not have even understood yet. So what are some of these things?
Well, we would probably all agree that another obvious thing that needs to be put behind us is worry. Scripture instructs us not to worry. It’s a command. “Do not worry” or “Be anxious for nothing”! (Philippians 4:6) Do we take that as seriously as we do other commands like “Do not steal” or “Do not commit adultery”? We should. And what are we instructed not to worry about? Here’s a list from God’s Word: your life, your body, what you will eat or drink, what you will wear, when you will die, tomorrow, what to say and how to say it, when you are arrested, when you are brought before the authorities, or how you will defend yourself. (Matt. 6:25-34, Matt. 10:19, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:11) Worry and the accompanying anxiety that goes along with it give us health problems. So could I ask you to unload that suitcase of worry from your baggage cart and leave it behind for the rest of your life journey? It takes an intentional choice to put worry behind you.
The little things need to be forgotten too. Whether it’s the little annoyances with your husband, or if it’s little things in your social circle, or the little things at church or anywhere else. If the devil can’t get us into sin, he will heap our minds full of little distractions from God’s purposes in our lives. Our enemy uses them to build a straw man and make us feel alienated, left out and forgotten. Let’s not fall for that! Forget that list of grievances with your spouse. Put it behind you. Forget those times you feel left out or overlooked. (God doesn’t overlook you!) Put it behind you. Forget the whispers around the office. Put it behind you. Forget that you didn’t get picked for that special thing at church. Put it behind you. Forget and focus on what God has called you to do today where you are and get to work. That is the best thing to put these little things in their place. Are you keeping a running list of these little things? All the tiny day-to-day slights, when remembered, can add up to a bigger issue, a root of bitterness growing in our heart.
Maybe you have a loved one who isn’t living up to your hopes, dreams, and expectations. There is a time to forget hopes, dreams, and expectations and put them behind us, too. If you can’t get over a past relationship that you had hoped would be healed, or if your grown child is not living the life you had dreamed for them, it may be time to forget this as old history and find a way to live life in the present, loving them despite anything we deem to be hangups. That may mean allowing them to live with the consequences of their sinful choices. That’s hard! But God loves them more than we do, and He is active when we are still before Him down on our knees praying on their behalf.
Disappointments and resentments need to be put behind us too: the vacations we could never afford, the boyfriend that got away, the promotion that was given to someone else. When we cling to the disappointments of the past, Satan twists these in our minds and tells us God is not really good, or He doesn’t really love us, or even that God doesn’t exist, for if He did, He surely would come through for us. The enemy of our souls wants us to save up these bitter tears where he can use them to tear us apart from the Lover of Our Soul. Hebrews tells us to “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (12:15) If we are wise, we will choose today to forget these resentments that are behind us, to let them go, and follow the instructions of scripture. As Paul says in Philippians, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
As Christian women we may be doing well with putting all these previously mentioned negatives behind us. We may feel we’re handling life well in that respect. But there are also good things which need to be forgotten as “what is behind.”
If we aren’t careful Satan whispers in our ears each time we receive applause. He tells us how amazing we are. And we are. He tells us how blessed the people around us are to know us. And they are. He tells us how useful we are in God’s kingdom. And we are. But each of those things he whispers to us is like a huge puff of air into our balloon of pride. Satan knows pride. He knows it well. It is the thing that got him cast out of heaven, and ever since he has enjoyed nothing more than tripping up the rest of us in the same way. He longs to take truth and twist it. We are used of God for good things, but Satan wants to twist it into pride over our accomplishments with feelings of being a notch above other people and an arrogant attitude that is distasteful to the Father. As we move and act and accomplish things that are God’s purpose for our lives, we need to thank God for using us, savor the moment of usefulness, and then forget it and put it behind us. After all, it’s not us, it is God working through us to will and to work for His good pleasure doing the things He created in advance for us to do. It’s all Him! (I Thess. 2:13, Phil. 2:13, Eph. 2:10)
Along that same line, we must put our desire for attention behind us and forget it. God sees us and knows us and pursues us. In Him we will find exactly the attention our soul longs for. He also created us with a need to feel significant and needed. Satan will try to offer us counterfeit fulfillment for this desire. He makes us feel we have to grab for attention. Society supports this idea, with everyone wanting their 15 minutes of fame, and with the most longed for jobs not generally the ones that give the most to the world, but rather the ones that get us the most attention: performers and sports stars and jobs in the limelight. Our enemy offers us quick gratification for our need to matter, while the Father wants us to patiently wait and learn and grow through those desert times, and then one day He will raise us up for His specific time and purpose so that He can say to us as Mordecai said to Esther that we were made for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14) Let’s quit taking the counterfeit bait that hooks us and allow ourselves to be truly fed by the Lord and used by Him.
I’m sure I’ve just skimmed the surface of forgetting what is behind. The more I think I know in this Christian life, the more God shows me I am just a little child with a very uninformed understanding of His ways. So I encourage you to meditate on these ideas. Ruminate as my granddad would say. Seek God in His Word and in prayer and find what treasures or tragedies He would have you forget that are behind you, so that you can more fully press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.