Principle: It’s not what happens to you that affects you, it’s how you view and respond to what happens that affects you.
The truth is consistent throughout Scripture: being a follower of Jesus does not mean that you will go through life without bad things happening to you. God’s promise is not from bad things happening, but it’s to give you the power to gain victory over the effect of those bad things in your life.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
The word temptation is the same as the word for test in the Greek language. The difference between the two is that a temptation is an attempt to get you to do evil. Temptations do not come from God, rather than come from the evil one playing to our inward lusts (passions & desires-James 1:13-15)
A test is a circumstance that is allowed by God to reveal and strengthen the quality of our faith. (James 1:2-4)
The point is that whatever you go through, God is going to strengthen you with the grace you need to endure it with godliness and to live in a way that leads to victory and joy. Peter says that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:2-4)
All that I’ve said is true, but it is also true that there are tragedies, shocks, disappointments, and bitter experiences that we’ve had in our past that often make it difficult for us to let go of those things so we can truly embrace the present.
So if we’ve had those emotional wounds of the past, how can we gain freedom from those things so that we can now live in the present?
One of the most important decisions you need to come to is to begin the process of letting go of the past. You cannot control the past, but you can begin to free yourself from the grip that your past has on you!
- No matter what has happened, remember that God has said I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5-6)
- No matter what has happened, affirm that God is for you (Romans 8:31)
- No matter what has happened, rest in the truth that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-39)
Remember, Satan’s attacks will be through thought attacks in your mind. He will tempt you to relive over and over the past experiences that hold you in pain. His goal is to bind you to the past! When those attacks come, resist him! Intentionally and consciously reject those thoughts. (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:6-11)
I have found one of the most effective means of winning the battle for my mind is to memorize large blocks of Scripture. If you don’t know where to start, then begin with Romans 8:28-39. When those attacks come, say out loud, in the authority of Jesus, I reject those thoughts. Then begin to work through the Scripture you have memorized! You are learning to let your mind dwell on the things of God (Philippians 4:8)
A second important decision you need to make is to forgive any who have wronged you. Forgiveness is an act of the will (not a feeling) to drop the charges against someone who has wronged you. Neil has an excellent section on this is chapter 11 of Victory over the Darkness so I won’t repeat him, but I do want to make some key observations.
It is not proper to think about forgiving God. I know it has been popular to talk about disappointment with God and how I need to forgive him, but any misgivings or anger you have against God is not about any wrong he has done to you, it is about your lack of understanding of his plan, provision, and purpose for you. It is arrogant to think that you have a right to hold God accountable for his actions or lack of actions in your life. It’s fine to express your anger towards God, but don’t put yourself in a position where you actually think you have a legitimate right to bear a grudge towards God. See Romans 9:20-21 and Daniel 4:34-37.
Second, it is not necessary nor helpful to forgive yourself. This concept is even more popular than the concept of forgiving God. Forgiving yourself is an indication that you are still too consumed with yourself. To be honest, what you think about yourself is not all that important. What God thinks about you is of great importance. So, rather than thinking about forgiving yourself, try accepting God’s forgiveness and live, by faith as a forgiven person.
Here’s the point of this chapter. If you are going to move forward, you must let go of the past. Satan wants you mired in the past (either past hurts or past failures) because as long as your focus is on the past, you will be paralyzed in the present. Paul says in Philippians 3:13, forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to what lies ahead, I press on for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!