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Articles > Marriage and Family: > Letting Go of the Past

Letting Go of the Past

The Apostle Paul said, "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."1

At some time every one of us will experience painful circumstances of one kind or another. The important issue is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens. Painful experiences can make us bitter or better. The choice is up to each one of us. Like the Apostle Paul we need to learn how to let go of what lies behind so we, too, can "press on" to achieve God's goal for our life.

To do this requires the following steps on our part:

Quit playing the blame-game. One lady I was working with in a group setting complained bitterly saying, "I can't understand why God gave me such a terrible husband." "Who chose him?" I asked. "God did," she replied. She had deceived herself into believing that fantasy. God will guide us if we genuinely seek his direction, but he won't make our decisions for us. As adults we are totally responsible for every decision and choice we make. As long as we play the blame-game, we can never get on with our life. We stay stuck where we are and can do so for years.

Overcome denial. Fred (not his real name), has been divorced for close to twenty years. His former wife re-married soon after their divorce. But Fred is still living in the delusion that his former wife will return to him. He is refusing to let go of the past, and is stuck there. Denial is deadly if we ever hope to fully live and fully love.

Forgive to be free. No matter how badly we feel we have been hurt, failing to forgive keeps us bound by the past as we are unconsciously allowing bitter memories of past hurts to control our present life. As another has said, "Failing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

Resolve supercharged negative emotions. Regardless of the reason, whenever we feel let down, rejected, or even abused, we have hurt and angry feelings. This is normal. To nurse these negative emotions is damaging to all present and future close relationships and meaningful living. Until we resolve these negative emotions, it is impossible to forgive.

Denying, suppressing, and/or repressing supercharged negative emotions is also destructive of physical, emotional, and spiritual health. No wonder Godís Word advises: "So get rid of your feelings of hatred [unresolved anger]. Don't just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty ... deception, envy and fraud."2 Stuffing negative emotions is not getting rid of them.3

As we follow these steps for letting go, we are freed to forget what lies behind and move onward and upward to achieve our God-given goals and life-purpose.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for your Word with practical advice for healthy relationships and meaningful living. Help me to take responsibility for my responses to all situations, never play the blame-game, be free from denial and forgive everyone who has every hurt me so that I can let go of and put behind me all hurts and failures from the past, and 'press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.' Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Philippians 3:13-14 (NASB).
2. 1 Peter 2:1, 3 (TLB)(NLT).
3. For further help in dealing with negative emotions read "Dare to Be Honest" at:


All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.

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