Looking Back to Look Forward

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 

2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1 NLT

This time of year always grips me with stress and fear. Not necessarily due to the busyness of the holiday season, (although that is certainly there) but because of all the unknowns looming in the year ahead. As disciples of Jesus, however, we are called to allow tomorrow to inform the decisions of today, but return to the urgent business of the living present, in the moment. In other words, we are wise about the future but we do not live there.

In C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters if you are not familiar, a devil writes his nephew a letter to encourage him on how lure men away from God. Regarding the future he says:

[God’s] ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth — ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other — dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

c.s. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

Personally, my year has been chock-full of grief and stretching; some for my good and some seemingly pointless. Those close to me have had their share of burdens, and I’m willing to bet that you also have. Be assured: He knows the pain and wrestling over the most honest and raw prayers that keep us up at night. Only He can see the knees bent on cold early morning ground and the tears that fall secretly. I wish it were not only the struggles that bow our heads, but also that praise would elicit just as much desire for you. Whatever the cause or result of sorrow, we must look to Him who holds it all together, who remains crowned and on the throne.

I know there are some sisters out there who are weary and burdened. I want to encourage you today, that you are not alone, you are seen, you are loved by the King of Heaven. But don’t take my word for it; see the evidence for yourself. 

In Exodus, God promises Moses that he will be allowed to see God’s back, but not his face. We can see him looking back, but he does not allow us to see him coming.

The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”

Exodus 33:19-23

I love this verse because it just reminds me that God can always be seen in everything, even if we can’t understand or comprehend it when it first happens. The Bible consistently exhorts believers to look back and remember.

Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 

Deuteronomy 6:12


Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

Isaiah 46:9

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Psalm 77:11

For myself, He has seen fit to allow me an incredible amount of growing and stretching this year. This year I have come to deeply understand and appreciate how very deep the chasm between the Word of God and my own earthly life.

He has taught me to pray correctly. And has led me to apply the things I am learning. He has led me to holy sorrow and repentance by revealing my sins to me and then forgiving me on the spot.

He showed me that I am a being designed to be thankful all the time as a result of my nature, not because of favorable circumstances.

He has given me a renewed enthusiasm for quiet time in the morning for prayer and to linger over scripture. He has provided me in my quiet times, ample space to analyze, question, wonder, confess, wrestle, cry, laugh, praise and sing.

Reflection

Think back (or make a list, whichever is more helpful!) contemplate God’s faithfulness to you over the past year.

  • How has He shown up for you?
  • What prayers has He answered?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know now about God that you did not know 12 months ago?

And so we find that we must look back in order to look forward; anticipate the coming year, not with dread but with awe and reverence, owning that there is still so much more to learn and puzzle over as we are sanctified. Do not forget. In Jesus’s name we are able to confidently march into the future with heads and banners held high on behalf of the lamb of God. 

You can’t take worries to Heaven!

Many changes are coming up later this month, including that I will be moving into a new place. Right now, I’m struggling with a few different things:

  1. Getting rid of things. In all the cleaning, organizing, and packing, there are some material possessions I am having a hard time letting go of. This is because I either dread having to repurchase them later, I have an inordinate emotional attachment to them, or I just selfishly want to hang on to them because they are the trophy items of my financial achievements.
  2. Impending changes. A few very important people are moving away in a matter of weeks: my sister and my boyfriend. I’m not losing them, they are just off to do bigger and better things. There will be an adjustment period during which I will mourn and eat lots of ice cream.

In all the changing and letting go of things and situations, I did a quick search on bible verses that mention possessions. Most of the verses that kept coming up were in the context of practical commands to give to those who are in need out of the abundance God has blessed us with. While this is excellent, I kept searching and lo and behold, verses 19 to the end highlighted the exact two issues I’m dealing with: possessions and worrying about the future. Here’s what God showed me:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also ~Matthew 6:21

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~ Matthew 6:33

The bad news: I’m awfully preoccupied with controlling my situation, and awfully UN-occupied with seeking God first in all things. All things means all things. Even when you’re about to step into a new phase in your life and everything feels like it’s going backwards and upside-down. It means I should seek Him in the little details like giving away my favorite tea kettle, and in the medium-sized things like giving away my beautiful Ikea bed I love so much but have no room for, and in the king-sized things like having a long-distance relationship, uncertain how we will end up.

But here’s the good news: Jesus promises us that our Father knows what we need and will provide, and that we are storing up treasures in Heaven “where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). He will add to me everything I need, and then some! (Matthew 6:33).

It’s certainly not easy trying to remember and take comfort in these passages. Indeed, these are hard things to apply to real life. I am a physical being in a tangible world, but this is not my permanent home. Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples, and you and me, in John chapter 17:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (vv. 14-19).

Lord, Thank you for revealing your love for us chronic worriers through your Word. Use it in our lives that we might be renewed in our mines and attitudes for Your Glory. Thank you that you don’t ever leave us to face hardship and change on our own. Help us to keep Your perspective on what is worthy of our attention. Amen!