“.. forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” — The Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:14
Many of us have lingering questions or regrets about our missed opportunities, choices made, and paths not taken. As we worry about today’s imperfect realities and wonder about idealized scenarios that might have been, at least three things may take place:
First, focusing on the past can rob us of joy that we should have today; secondly, we may become envious or bitter instead of thankful; and finally, we can get distracted from what God is calling us to do today.
Regarding those lost years and missed opportunities, many a pastor has referred inquirers to Joel 2:25-26: “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame.”
This was a prophetic promise to ancient Israelites in exile that they would be restored to their ancestral home, and a reminder to them, and by extension to us, that God’s wonderful plan will ultimately prevail, despite difficult realities and future obstacles.
When we get stuck in the slime and mud of discontent, wheels spinning fruitlessly, here are some things to consider:
— Thank God for where you are today and for delivering you from that missed opportunity you’re lamenting- He had a plan and closed that door so you did not go through and get hurt; He opened a different door so you could go through and be blessed.
— Look outside yourself for opportunities to serve and help someone else; that will help you focus and persevere in productive work for the Lord.
— Pray as if the results depend on God (they do) but work as though it depends on you (it doesn’t). Jesus said “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5), a very humbling reminder to not become self-sufficient or overconfident.
— Remember what God has already accomplished in your life, the lives of others who have faced similar difficulties, and your own failures without Him. These memories can assist in helping others and be cathartic in addressing personal challenges.
— Hebrews 4:9-10 tells us “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” This doesn’t mean final rest, but as one preacher said, “the
11th commandment is “thou shalt not sweat it!” Simply trust God for the final result, whatever the current circumstances.
— As a notorious persecutor of the church, Paul had a lot of baggage, but did not let it dictate his present, or his future. He wrote “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
— Determine to finish well! Despite an incredibility difficult and tumultuous life, Paul never gave up! Near the end of his life, he was able to say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7-8)
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)
• Guy Crockroft is executive director of Love Inc., Juneau. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.