Friday, February 14, 2014

Remembering to Forget

The Cathedral of York in Yorkshire, England
     Some things are worth remembering always like the smile of a loved one gone to heaven.  However, there are other things we need to forget and put behind us like the hurtful things that can happen to us in life.  When we get locked in the past, we can make no forward progress.  The Apostle Paul made this clear in Philippians 3:13-14:  "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
     When I survey the stories told in Genesis, the one that jumps out at me is the story of Joseph.  If anyone had reason to complain, it would have been this young man.  His own brothers plotted to kill him and then, decided instead to throw him into a pit.  Later, they sold him to a caravan traveling to Egypt where he was sold into slavery.  He prospered for a time in the house of Potiphar but his lascivious wife slandered Joseph with a false tale, and he was thrown into prison.  Even there, God blessed him, and he did not dwell on the past.  Eventually, his ability to interpret dreams with God's divine help allowed him to experience freedom and rise to second in command over all Egypt.
     Rising to this important political position, Joseph married and he named his first son Manasseh which means "God has caused me to forget" (Gen. 41:51).  This was the secret to his ability to put the past behind him.  He trusted in God, and it was the Lord that enabled him to move forward.  Certainly, if anyone had a reason to seek revenge or payback others, it would have been Joseph, but God wrote his story for us to see so we might follow his example as we journey heavenward.
     I admit that it is a blessing that the sharp edges come off of our memories as time passes.  Things like loneliness, the grieving heart, the shock of a betrayal God helps us to forget if we allow Him to minister to us.  I call this a blessing because one of the worst things we can do is nurse old wounds, remember insults or plan some way to get even.  We become consumed with unforgiveness, and we are the ones that end up prisoners to this state of mind....not the one who hurt us.
     Living in the past holds us back from the goal of ever moving towards the prize of our calling heavenward.  This life is a journey through which God is molding and shaping us into the image of His dear Son.  As Christians, we cannot afford to get stuck in the mire and quick sand of hatred, revenge or despair.  We cannot change what has happened to us, but we can move forward just like Joseph trusting that God will use all things together for good.
     A time came for Joseph when he was able to reveal himself to his brothers who had come to him for help during a famine.  His brothers were afraid he would seek revenge, but Joseph kept moving forward when he said:  "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive" (Genesis 50:20).  Joseph recognized God's sovereignty in all the affairs of men.  His brothers had meant him evil, but God used all the circumstances for His glory and Joseph's good.
     As we pray, God can help us put behind us what we need to forget.  All the hurts, insults, grief, and injuries of the past do not need to hold us captive.  Through Christ, we are free to move forward as the Apostle Paul tells us towards that goal of the heavenward call.  Joseph shows us that this is possible by the testimony of his life.  May we be as trusting in our God as he was!  Selah!

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