Looking Ahead…Not Back

The last two years have been challenging, to say the least. In fact, for our family as well as so many of our close friends, it seems like it’s been one battle after another. Hard fought battles, I should add. Not mere skirmishes that last for an hour or so, but in some cases battles that have lasted almost the entire two years, and are still continuing.

Last New Year’s Eve we all counted down the seconds as we watched the ball drop in Times Square (on TV of course), toasted each other, yelled Happy New Year to everyone in the room, and said, “Thank goodness that year is over! This one has to be better!”

Surprise! Although 2015 saw our daughter happily married to the man of her dreams, which has now led to our status as future grandparents in 2016, this year was as difficult as the year before. And for some of our friends, it was even worse.

Job losses and its resulting financial crises. Broken marriages and sudden spousal/parental desertion. Serious illness and terminal diagnoses. Runaway children turning to drugs. Auto accidents. Unexpected deaths of parents and spouse. Not to mention dealing with the stress from all of these incidents, whether our personal situations or our friends’; when our friends are hurting, we’re hurting as well.

There were times we dreaded answering the phone because it could bring more bad news.

I can’t count the number of times all of us have asked each other, “Lord where are you in all of this? Why are you allowing this to happen? When are you going to intervene? Why have you deserted me? I look at others who aren’t believers and their lives are so much easier. What’s going on? Have you forgotten us?”

How do you answer that when your friends are hurting so much? And so are you?

Why are we experiencing all of these trials? I have no answers. Except that we live in a fallen world. Things happen. People make bad choices that affect others as well as themselves. God gave us all free will. And although He wants us to live the way He intended us to live, the choices we make, as well as choices others make, do not always align with His word. Although He could easily control all of our lives and our actions, He allows us to make our own decisions. Some good, and some not so good. And many decisions we later regret.

We know John 16:33 tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” But so much trouble at one time? We look back and wonder what we did wrong. What if we’d done this, or that? What if we’d worked harder? Gone to the doctor more often? Done things differently in our marriage or with our children?

It’s all too easy to mire ourselves in our past. We dwell on all the negative things that have happened and are still happening. We talk about them all the time and we relive each moment of the pain and over and over again. We try to figure out what we could’ve done differently to change things. As one friend says, it’s like opening up a wound over and over…a wound that is starting to scab over and heal, but we won’t allow it to do that. And then we wonder why things don’t change.

The longer we dwell on the past, the longer we stay in the past. We can’t seem to look ahead because we keep looking back. When Lot and his family were told to leave Sodom, the Lord told them not to look back. But Lot’s wife disobeyed and looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt. There was a reason He told them not to look back. He had a new life waiting for them; something better. But they couldn’t experience that new life if they kept looking back and dwelling on the past.

Isaiah 43:18 tells us to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” So why do we continue to do so? Is it because sometimes it’s easier to try and dissect what went wrong, rather than look ahead to the better things the Lord has in store for us? Because we can’t see them yet?

In 1 Corinthians 2:9, we are reminded, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” If we love Him, we are to trust Him. Because He has this under control, whether we think He does or not.

If you remember, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to “take this cup from me.” He felt abandoned by the Lord as well, and He was His SON! And He knew the ending of the story. If the son of God can feel that way, no wonder we have our own moments as well.

The Lord told us, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) And He doesn’t. Even when you feel at your lowest, He’s there, preparing to give you something so much better than before. And it will be in His perfect timing, at the perfect opportunity. We only have to keep our faith. It won’t be too early, or too late. Because He knows best.

This year, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, don’t look back. Look ahead. The Lord’s promises are about to be fulfilled in your life…and in ours as well. It may not be in the way we expect, but it will be exactly as He has planned.

Happy New Year, and may the blessings of the Lord be abundant in your lives in 2016! The best is yet to come.

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