‘Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” Psalm 137.7
We all look back; sometimes with regret at things that went wrong and sometimes with fondness to a time when we seemed so happy. On other occasions, like the person who wrote this psalm, we look back in anger at what has happened and we want to see revenge on those who have hurt us. The trouble with dwelling on the past is that it robs us of the present; it can prevent us seeing what is in the here and now. Paul seemed to have a different attitude and in Philippians 3.13 he wrote, ‘…forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead…’ How can we do this?
Actually there is a recognised Christian spiritual tradition of reflecting on the past day; giving thanks for blessings, confessing sins and learning from events. This leads to a healthy focus on each new day; for example, if you really believe that your sins from yesterday have been forgiven, then you do not need to bring them up again. You can place them in the faithful arms of Jesus and move on to today.
If you constantly dwell on yesterday, you will miss the opportunities that today brings. As Psalm 118.24 says, ‘…let us rejoice today and be glad.’ Whatever happened in the past, step into today with joy and confidence.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission