3 Actions for Dealing with a Painful Past


A thirty-nine-year-old mother of four adolescents suddenly suffered a splitting headache. Before she knew what had happened, she was undergoing surgery for a brain aneurysm. The operation was successful but had an unusual side effect. Partial amnesia caused her to forget sixteen years of her life. In her mind, she was twenty-three, the mother of four small children. Sixteen years erased. Sixteen years of happiness and achievement. Sixteen years of pain and regret.

Would it be a blessing to erase our past? Are there some events and mistakes that we would like to forget? Are there some memories that we would rather have deleted?

What we need is a new start, a fresh beginning, a redemption of a troubled past. We desperately desire a cleansing, something to take away the sting of the past.

  1. Face the past.

Brownlow North was a famous preacher a century ago. In his early life he had behaved wickedly, living an immoral life. Once, just before he entered the pulpit to preach, someone handed him a letter. Its writer claimed to have evidence from Brownlow’s past that would be very embarrassing to him. The writer threatened to interrupt the service with the facts of his wayward life if Brownlow insisted on preaching. Brownlow North carried the letter with him into the pulpit and read it out loud. He told the congregation about his sins as a young man. He admitted that the letter’s charges against him were true. Then the evangelist described how the love of Jesus Christ had changed his life and cleansed his sin-soiled heart.

Facing up to our past—who we are and what we have done—is confession. Confession is essential if we are to receive God’s forgiveness and be redeemed. Jesus knows our past. Confessing our sin is not a frightening thing, in fact, it is very comforting and freeing. Since Jesus already knows our past, when we face up to it we, then, experience his love and forgiveness.

2. Release the past.

Paul Tournier wrote, “We must always be letting go . . . leaving one place in order to find another, abandoning one support in order to reach the next, turning our backs on the past in order to thrust wholeheartedly toward the future.” Any change in our behavior requires a total release of our past.

Once we know God’s love and acceptance, we can let go of the past. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, wrote, “This is what the Lord says . . . ‘Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old’” (Is. 43:16,18 HCSB). By the way, where is our past? Is it in our briefcase, locked up in a safe-deposit box, thrown into a closest? One can’t show another their past, because it is not here anymore. The past is only a memory of how we were and how things were. It isn’t a picture of how things are. Too often our self-image rests on a mental evaluation of our past behavior. It is that mental picture we need to let go of.

3. Entrust the future to God.

Once we release our past we are now in a position to trust our future to God. He has some wonderful new beginnings and exciting new blessings awaiting us as we place our lives in his hands. It may be scary to entrust your future to God because the past looms large in your mind.

When we come face to face with the Savior and place our life—past, present, and future—in his hands, he doesn’t just give us a new smile; he gave us a new purpose, a new beginning, a new start.




About Rick Ezell

I am a husband, father, pastor, and writer. This blog is about shaping character, transforming church, and impacting culture. I believe that if one defines their moments then their moments will determine their character and their character will influence their world. I write on personal development, church leadership, and our changing culture. I also write about the resources I am developing and the books I am writing. My goal is to create challenging, relevant, and inspiring content that will help you be a better person, the church be a better parish, and the world a better place. If you are interested in those things, this blog is for you. I have served the church my entire career as a student minister and senior pastor. I studied at Samford University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (eventually I will get it). I have written eight books. My most recent ones are Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love and Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23. Both are available as eBooks. I have written over 1000 articles for various local, regional, and national publications. I have been married to Cindy for thirty-three years. We have one wonderful daughter. We live in Greenville, SC. In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading, running, tennis, and golf. You can contact me via email or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. This is my personal blog. The opinions I express here do not necessarily represent those of my employer. The information I provide is on an as-is basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.
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