How to Look Back With the Right Filter


Hello, sweet readers. January is nearly over, the kiddos are settled back into school, and the shininess has worn off of those resolutions, am I right??

If you’re anything like me, the busyness and chaos of ending one year and beginning another tends to keep me in survival mode. I’m not doing a lot of looking back or reflecting during the holiday season.

But as life settles into the routine of winter, I find myself taking a peek back at 2019. Even scarier, I’ve looked a little farther into the last decade, as many of you have already done.

I don’t know about you, but I find looking back hard to do. Yes, there are plenty of highs and joyful, social media-worthy moments. But there’s also a shadow of sadness and disappointment clouding the review of so many months and years; a decade brings plenty of high highs and low lows.

And even in spite of all the good, sometimes looking back brings me to an unsettling conclusion: my life is not where I thought it would be at this point. Maybe you too feel this twinge of disappointment in all the flurry of reflecting on a decade.

The Lord and I have been sitting with this feeling, mulling it over the past few weeks. While reading through Isaiah, I read the account of King Hezekiah who, after learning his death was imminent, cried out to God for more time. God graciously answered his cry and granted Hezekiah 15 more years. In reflection and praise, he spoke these words:

“Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.” Isaiah 38:17 (ESV)

It was for my welfare … I read those words several times, letting them sink in and eventually lead me to the conclusion that perhaps I struggle with looking back because I’m not peering through the right filter.

Truth be told, I tend to look back with a filter of self-focus … I wonder if you can relate? We set high expectations for our lives, but so often these expectations are short-sighted and, well, self-centered (at least for me). I want to be happy and healthy, have happy and healthy kids, a comfortable life, etc.

As a result, my first thought on past pain is not in line with Hezekiah’s sentiments. Rather than believing the painful times were ultimately for my welfare, I’m often left wondering, Lord, what went wrong?? Surely that was a mistake and not in Your good plan.

Dear one, health and happiness are not bad desires—but our loving Father’s ultimate goal is not our earthly happiness. He is working out a far bigger picture that includes our holiness and redemption. In all our planning of what life should look like, I wonder if we’ve forgotten the bigger, more glorious plans our Father is accomplishing in our lives?

In His plan, all the disappointments and heartaches will ultimately play a vital role in the story He’s writing. Beth Moore, in her study on Esther, states that, “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny.” I find the truth of that statement so comforting, don’t you? Everything we’ve experienced in our lives thus far—the good and the bad—has a part in the work God is doing. No painful memory or experience lie beyond the touch of His redemptive Hand!

As I continued reading, I came to the beautiful promise of Isaiah 43:18-19. When looking back at our lives, these words give us a far better filter than our own flawed and fallible eyes:

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (ESV).

These words, though ancient and given to the children of Israel, speak volumes into our modern lives. God knows our tendency to look back and get hung up on all the things that sting or make us ask why? Lovingly, He calls us forward and invites us to trade our filter of self-focus for a filter of trust.

He is doing something new. Yes, our pasts are littered with times of wilderness and seasons of desert days. But He is putting it all to good use and making a way through it.

If looking back at the last decade, last year, or even last month feels like a painful exercise, take heart, sweet reader. God is doing something new. Keep your eyes and your head lifted upward, in steady assurance that though your past be riddled with pain, none of it will be lost or wasted.

I pray that in this year ahead, we may come to claim as King Hezekiah did, that all our pain truly was for our welfare. Let’s keep the faith, dear one.

With Grace,

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