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.