Most men tend to stuff. Often, we trade our grief or sorrow for anger. But in order to release the past into God’s hands, you must fully encounter your grief, and you must be willing to forgive yourself and others for the pain that’s occurred.
This isn’t easy. But we can learn from some people who went before us. Many of the Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon had forgotten the laws of God. During the exile, they hadn’t been taught his laws, so, naturally, they hadn’t practiced them. After rebuilding the city wall and the Temple, the priests gathered the people together to read the Book of the Law. The people were overwhelmed with grief and began sobbing because their lives in no way measured up. But the priests said to them:
‘Today is a sacred day before the Lord your God’Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:9-10).
The process of releasing the past requires grief and forgiveness. Then you are given the ‘joy of the Lord’ as your strength. This joy comes from recognizing, even celebrating, God’s ability to set you free from the past, and in doing so, a new way of life.
God wants to move you out of your broken past and into a better future. As you cooperate with God’s process of redeeming your past, you need to honestly evaluate your life so you can redirect your course according to God’s design.
Jesus said, ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). The path to freedom always leads through the truth, even the truth about your past. The apostle Paul examined his past, making an honest review of his earthly accomplishments, his wrongs, mistakes, gains, and his losses. It was from this broad perspective that he wrote, ‘I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be’ (Philippians 3:12).
Freedom from the past also involves facing up to times when others have harmed you and turning them over to God. In a letter to Timothy Paul even states the truth that someone has hurt him but leaves the matter in God’s hands.
When you hand over your past to God with the prayer that he work it out for the best according to his will, you can finally let go of it. Then you can redirect your course toward a brighter future and help others to do the same through the lessons you’ve learned.
Regardless of your humble beginnings, God can lead you to a glorious future. But there’s a catch. You need to be transformed according to his perfect plan. And you’ll need both faith and courage as you allow him to make the most of your weaknesses, to transform your deficiencies into strength, and to turn your misery into mission.
Take for example another man’a man named Gideon. When you first meet Gideon in the book of Judges, he’s discouraged. He’s a young man with little self-respect. His clan was the weakest in his whole tribe, and he was the least in his family. He’s first seen threshing wheat in a winepress, hiding the little food he has from his Midianite oppressors. An angel appeared and called to him, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’ Gideon certainly didn’t look or feel like a mighty hero, but God knew his potential. By the end of the story, Gideon had become the deliverer of his people. His first step toward success was to see himself as God saw him’a ‘mighty hero.’ Then Gideon was able to hope in the possibility of freedom.
No matter how weak or unworthy you are, God is able to transform you into a mighty hero of faith. Just as Gideon was changed when he trusted God to make him into a powerful man of God, you too will be changed when you allow God’s strength to empower you in your areas of weakness.