Letting Go of the Past | Matt Tommey

Engage Art | Faith | July 25, 2022

All of us have a past; it's just a normal part of the human condition. But have you ever wondered how to let go of the past so that you are free to do all the things God has called you to do in life? I'm going to share a practical strategy for renewing your mind, right out of God's Word, that will enable you to let go of the past and truly begin to thrive in all God has for you.

How God Sees Your Past

All of us have done things and have had things done to us in the past that we want to forget.  We want to get rid of it, but the enemy loves to continually bring those things up over and over. He uses these images of the past to torment us and stall our journey of faith. It’s frustrating for many and for some, it can be downright paralyzing.

This may be your current reality, but it's not God’s best for you in the Kingdom! 

Let’s turn to Scripture for inspiration on this spiritual battle:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

Do you find these Scriptures encouraging? Instead of condemnation, God offers renewal! 

It’s a Process

If you find yourself stuck in a loop, replaying old mistakes over and over again, consider this suggestion: 

Not that I have already obtained it or have become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I was also laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I don't regard myself as having laid a hold of it yet, but one thing I do, here it is: 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. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Philippians offers an excellent strategy for getting rid of what is commonly referred to as stinkin' thinkin'. I love how this passage begins with: "Not that I have already obtained it or have become perfect, but I press on." Right from the start, Paul is letting you know this is a process—that in fact, he's still in process himself! “I haven’t laid a hold of it yet” could mean: 

  • I don't have it all down. 
  • I have not made all of the right decisions.
  • I don't have it all together.

Can you relate? 

Intent to Forget

But Paul doesn't camp out there. He continues with, "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." 

I love Paul’s intent to forget. It's as if Paul is intentionally saying, "You know, these thoughts, fears, and anxieties over my past that keep playing over and over in my mind, I'm choosing to take those thoughts captive and forget it all!"

Purposeful Shift

Paul follows the intent to forget with a purposeful shift of his attention. Deliberately breaking the thought patterns that could keep him dwelling in past disappointments, he chooses to focus on the promise that God has goodness in store for him, and he leans into the process. Paul purposefully shifts his attention from the mistakes, hurts, junk from the past and begins to focus on:

  • The good things God has for him
  • His calling and purpose in the Kingdom
  • His divine design
  • Where God is taking him next

Have you tried redirecting your focus when you get stuck in those shame spirals? 

Many of us have spent years focusing on the things we have done wrong. It's too easy to be wrapped up in all the ways that we missed it and walk in condemnation over the weaknesses and temptations we've given into in the past. Forget that junk! Press into ALL that God has for you. 

Thought Experiment

If you've been having trouble letting go of the past, there is an easy place to start. Allow God’s healing to root deeply in your spirit today. Take a moment to reflect on one anxiety, fear, or regret from your past. When you have that thing in mind, find a few quiet minutes and take it to the Lord in prayer. Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • Lord, would You take this memory from me? 
  • Lord, would You take this pain from me? 
  • Would You heal this place in my heart? 
  • Father, would You give me fresh hope for my future?
  • God, would you remind me of the loving way YOU see me? 
  • God, would You give me vision for this next phase of my life so that I can begin to meditate on that? 

​Listen, friend! That's how you let go of the past. You take those old toxic thoughts captive, you throw them out, and you replace them with the healing truth of God's Word. The more you commit to the intent to forget and purposefully shift your attention, the more you might find yourself living in the reality of God’s healing and freedom. And the more you’ll move forward.

This is part of Engage Art’s series on hope and resilience for creatives pursuing their calling. Explore "Keep Creating" to read more.

Matt Tommey is an artist, internationally-known Christian speaker, and the author of 7 books who is passionate about helping artists thrive spiritually, artistically and in business. He is a mentor to artists around the world through his Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program and also hosts The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast. Find more resources from Matt at https://www.matttommeymentoring.com/

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