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.
The ‘rules’ practiced in today’s business world aren’t always the same as God’s rules, are they? Are you getting caught up in the game, trying to get as much as you can’are you tempted to cheat others or not give them their fair share? God will hold his men’you and I’accountable for this. We must take responsibility if we’ve sinned this way.
Take for example a man in the Bible named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus’s hunger for riches drove him to take more than his fair share while he was collecting taxes from the Jews for the Roman government. He was hated by his own people as an extortioner and a traitor. But when Jesus reached out to him he changed dramatically. The book of Luke says, ‘Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘I will give half of my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to his home today” (Luke 19:8-9).
When you honestly reflect on your life, you should be careful to consider whether you have taken more than your fair share in your dealings’business or personal. If so, it’s your responsibility to face the greed, the fear, the anger, and the pride that led you to behave dishonestly. Like Zacchaeus, true spiritual growth will be evidenced in practical ways. I hope you’ll take those courageous steps today.