In this life, there are many reasons for not looking back. I do not want to review past mistakes. I never want to revisit previous disappointments, painful hurts or traumatic events. Primarily, though, I could not bear to drag up memories of watching again someone I love suffer, then die. Such things belong in the past.
Mention of Abraham’s nephew Lot occurs numerous times in Scripture, but his wife is probably more famous for one reason. She looked back. Her erroneous backward glance was fatal. Hers was a type of longingly looking back. She longed for Sodom. Her heart remained there. Unfortunately, neither the people of Sodom, nor Lot’s wife, had hearts pleasing to Him. Her infamous look back was for the wrong reason because she wanted to return from whence she came.
Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt; by default, she is a reminder of how we can avoid the same mistake. God does not want us to long for what the world offers, to pine for the way things used to be or to fixate on how things could be. Simply put, He does not want us dwelling on any former things if they cause us to long for them or forget Him. That was God’s rub with Lot’s wife.
While there are many reasons for not looking back, there are some for which we should. Because He does not ever want us to forget His redeeming love, Jesus asks that we remember His sacrificial atonement by partaking of Communion. In order to teach us that He is faithful and that His Truth is unchanging, He asks that we remember His promises. So that we will never doubt Him or His goodness, God also asks that we remember His marvelous works that He has done.
There is a wonderful song out recently, We Will Remember, which focuses on looking back for the right reasons:
We will remember
We will remember
We will remember
The works of Your hands
We will stop
And give You praise
For great is Thy faithfulness
Remembering what God has done and is capable of doing is a remarkable antidote to discouragement and despair. When looking back, if our reference point is on God and the pure, lovely, praiseworthy things He orchestrates, it changes our perspective in the here and now. Remembering His creation resurrects a sense of wonder and leads to praise. Thinking of His mighty acts of deliverance in former times generates encouragement and births hope. Recounting the ways in which He has worked wondrously in our own lives or others, brings an awareness of progress and restores a tenacity to press for more. If done for the right reasons and on the right things, looking back is immensely beneficial.
The night my dad died, I asked my husband how long it would take until the hurt subsided. Having already lost both of his parents, I figured he would know. When asked, he paused and then replied, “It never goes away. You just learn to replace the sad feelings with good memories.” At the time, I could not fully absorb his consolation, since I wanted a quick fix to my mourning. As the months passed, though, I understood that what he spoke was true. The remedy to my grieving was allowing God to replace my sad memories with treasured ones of my dad. Gradually, I learned to ignore memories of when he was sick or hurting with those of when he was laughing or enjoying his family. My sweet husband taught me a needed lesson about remembering, one that enabled me to move forward through my grief.
Just like with Lot’s wife, we only get into trouble if we are longing wrongly or if we are stuck in the past. God wants forward thinking and reaching. He wants a forgetting the things behind and pressing forward to what lies ahead. That means we must leave the past in the past, including former sins that have been confessed and forgiven. We tend to look back on those things and remember all the wrong; God only sees the Blood. Although our mistakes and problems may bring consequences and scars, they can be the very avenue of revealing His purpose in our lives. He does not want us remembering what happened before and remain there; instead, God wants us to remember His promise that we have brighter and better things in store.
I love this children’s song called, He’s Still Working on Me:
This simple song helps me remember that God is not finished with me yet, nor my loved ones either. When I also remember that He is a wondrous God, who does wondrous things, my hope soars like an eagle above temporary problems. Rather than slide down a slippery slope of despair by dwelling on life’s dark valleys or past regrets, I think of my God and the great things yet to come. I recall that He is still working, that He is going to finish all He began and that HE IS ABLE, no matter the battle or difficulty. Instead of giving up or looking back, I will shout our God is good and that He is the faithful One! I will soar. I will remember!