“It hurt because it mattered.” – John Green
We turn our back to it. We bury it. We walk away from it. We shut the closet, sweep it under the rug, and never reveal it. It is our past. Painful tears trickle down our face as we remember the past – the hurt, the trauma, the abuse, the betrayal, the_____ (you name it).
“God is making a bright future for you! God is before you. Look to him and move on from the past.” How many of us have heard that phrase or a variation of it?
We trod our path forward, but our head turns around to see our past. Whenever we do, all we see is our pain. It hurts deeply. We try our best to keep facing forward, but our mind is drawn back to the past.
St. Patrick said, “Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.”
Most of these phrases make sense; except one – Christ behind me. Why is God behind me? I thought he wanted me to move on from my past to my future.
What does it mean for God to be behind me?
A Deeper Look Behind You
When we hear the phrase, “God behind me,” what comes to mind?
The pillar of cloud which stood behind the people of Israel as they travelled out of Egypt (Exodus 14:19)?
The promise to Israel in Isaiah 52:12 of God going before the people and protecting them from behind?
We see God behind us as one who is protecting us. He is the one defending us from surprise attacks from the rear. He is encircling us with his divine protection.
While that is true, is there another reason why God is behind us?
Think about walking away from your past as you journey on a path to your future. When we turn around to remember our past, what do we see? The people, the places, the events, and the memories fill our view.
What if the reason God is behind you is so when you look to your past you see him?
Seeing the God of the Past
When we look at Exodus 14:19, the Israelites are chased down by the Egyptians. The Egyptians wanted them back. They were not going to let Israel escape slavery that easily.
You can see Israel walking out of Egypt. They are out of sight of Pharaoh. Until he realizes the mistake he made. So, the slave master hunts them down like a hunter tracking a deer. You can feel the ground begin shake and the noise of an army coming up behind Israel. Each face turns around. An enemy is close at hand. Their past has come to drag them back.
What does God do? He goes behind Israel and in front of the Egyptians. God wanted his people to focus on him. Seeing the cruelty of their slavery, the people were reminded God is the God of the past. He knew where they were. He heard their cries. Even though they could see their past, God stood their to remind them he is still there. He was in their past, he was in their midst, and he was in their future.
Many of the Psalms record the fact of remembering the past. Yet, as each event is brought back into memory, the reality of God being there is the center picture.
Despite the angry faces, the hurtful memories, and the things we wish to forget, God was there. He is the God of your past.
The Question We Never Verbalize
“Why? Why did God not stop it? Why did he plan for me to go through that?
It is the question all of us have asked. Yet, we do not ask out loud. We do not have the boldness of Gideon to say, “Where were you God (Judges 6:13)?”
I don’t have answer for why. I don’t have an answer for why I was mocked for my disability. I don’t have an answer for why someone close physically beat me up every time they found me an embarrassment. I don’t have an answer to the bullying, the abuse, the hurt, the backstabbing… the pain of the past.
Psalm 139:16 says God wrote all of our days in a book. He wrote our story before we knew we were in one. He wrote those dark chapters in our life. He chose dark words on our pages to be stained with our tears.
To say God did this because he is God is like being slapped in the face. Yet, we are only told that when advised to let go of the past and look forward. What if we held to the same answer, and used it every time we looked back? What if every time we remembered the past, we saw it as God being God?
In The Dark Of The Night
The house is still. The lights darkened. The room lies in shadows. As you lay in bed, the past haunts you; like hands coming up from under the bed or a dark figure standing over you. Many of us have those night terrors, but never admit it. We remember the past in our nightmares. Our nights are not peaceful. No, they are sleepless, PTSD nights.
In the dark of the night, our past haunts us. Why would God write this story when it isn’t a one and done, time to flip the page event? We feel like the mad man in Mark 5:1-5. Our past demons drive us insane. We lost our mind. Wandering through the dead visages of our history is our reality. Why would God want us to go through this?
Because of Mark 5:15 – The people found the man perfectly sane.
This man’s past was terrible. He lived a nightmare. Insanity controlled him. Why did God have him go through this? God is the God who heals; not just our soul, but our mind. He wants the same for us. God wants us sane.
Except we must do one thing – confront our demons
Jesus asked the man to confront the demons in him (Mark 5:9). The power of those night terrors only have power when we cannot name them. We become to0 afraid to call out what they are. Jesus has the man face his past. We need to turn around, because we will see the God of the past.
The dark of the night can only be scary when the light is not there. Because we know he is there, we can face our past and see why God wrote it.
The answer is in Mark 5:18-20. We become a light for others in the dark. We have a dazzling demeanor despite documented devastation.
The Joy of Looking Back
How many tears have we cried? How much pain have we endured?
So, why God? Why would you put me through this?
It is not loving to take away the bad from our lives, because we will never see the good God blesses us with.
It was tried in the film The Giver. The Elders took away all memories of the bad in order to create the perfect society. The Giver confronts the head Elder and bestows a gift on the world – Please Watch This Scene
Deciding to remove the bad only took away the blessing of being human in a fallen world with a sovereign God – redemption. Love is what allows the bad in order to let the good shine. This may seem like an oversimplification of the hurts we endure. However, isn’t that what God always does? He heals people, and then he sends people. He does this to give the world a glimpse of the ending of the story – Revelation 21.
Our lives are glimpses of what is to come. We are pointing to the New Earth when all is restored and every tear wiped away.
The final scene in The Giver shines this truth in the most subtle and powerful way. The memories are set free. Where is the basis of human experience? Where does this all lead to? Watch this scene. Did you hear music playing? What song was sung at the end? The house is decorated for Christmas, who is at the heart of Christmas?
See the connection?
Our past can haunt us or it can remind us of Jesus, of his power to give us sanity and heal us, and then to send us. Our personal story is a story of redemption. It drives us home to Jesus.
Turn around. Look at your past. God is behind you midst the pain. He smiles at you. He says, “Look at your story. Look where you are now. I am behind you to remind you to see my fingerprints in your past.”
It hurts to look at our past. We are tempted to bury it. Yet, when we face it, Jesus brings sanity to our thoughts, and sends us.
Every time I look back to my past, I do see the pain. I do see the hurt. I do see the abuse. But, I see someone standing there. I see Jesus. I see the miracle he is making each day of my life.
I see the God behind me.