Motivational messages often say we shouldn’t look back on the journey. That we should forget the past and look forward in hope.
They generally assume that thinking of past pains is a negative exercise. They’re not altogether wrong, but I have found that the message is not carved in stone and applicable to all situations.
There is amazing strength to be found in looking back on the journey.
When we face tough situations, we tend to become engrossed in them. This new problem takes over our thinking, this dilemma is unique, hard, not something we can address. We find that we are breaking, tired, done for– but that has been the case many other times in the past. We just can’t remember. We don’t look back often enough.
I have a gratitude journal to practice recording thanks for things that happen through the day, it is a practice I took up to try and find joy in the midst of depression. As I packed out of my place recently, I looked back at the journals for 2016 and 2017. There was a day in 2016 where all I wrote is: Thankful for still breathing. I know it was a rough day if that’s all I could write. But I cannot remember what made it rough. That’s the irony of problems – when we’re in the middle of them, it’s all we can think of. Then when we get through it, we can barely recall it.
But we should. We should mark the ways the heartbreak happened, the ways the rejection broke us, the ways we were betrayed, record the depth of the pain – and above, all, record how we grew in faith, how God got us through it. We should be able to look back on past troubles to say God got me through that one, He’ll get me through this too.
I’m at crossroads in my life at the moment. For the first time in a long time, I do not know have a fixed plan- just a prayer. I’m struggling to believe that is enough. As I left home this trip unsure of how soon I am returning, it was looking back that helped renew my conviction. As I packed my stuff up, as I visited family, looked through old photos and generally took trips down memory lane, I cried and realized why the present hurt so much. But I also had renewed conviction- I literally found myself saying: “Damn, I’ve been through a lot. This isn’t so bad as that time when….”
So here’s a recommendation, in addition to a gratitude journal, perhaps we should have a problem/obstacle journal. You need not write through it every day. But regularly list the things you are struggling within it as evidence of overcoming/ God’s CV of coming through in your life. That would definitely come in handy when you come to the roadblocks on your Christian journey.
So here’s your call to look back:
Remember the time you got an opportunity by ‘chance’ when you thought there was no way out. Remember the night you went to bed hungry, remember the rejection that you became grateful for 5 years later, remember the disagreement that kept you restless and in pain… remember that day you should have died- be amazed at how many near misses have been just that- misses.
Remember the bad times, and perhaps you’ll find (as I did) that this present problem pales in comparison. So this too shall pass, this too is part of His plan. Look back and be hopeful. Because if God has gotten you through half as much as he has gotten me through then He has plans we cannot fathom.
All we have to do is muster enough trust in him to not fret as he unfolds his plans.