As we stand on the threshold of another new year, some look back wistfully at the past year. Most of us would probably say the year has been one of mixed blessings; some successes interlaced with some failures. For others, it was a year of “what might have been.” There are things we wished we had done differently, things we probably regretted saying and doing. Regardless of where we direct our thoughts, one thing is clear – we cannot go back in time and change anything that was or was not done.
In his reflection on time, American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) writes, “Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.” However, centuries before, words to the same effect were spoken by the prophet Isaiah to the nation of Israel, “This is what the Lord says . . . ‘Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:16a, 18-19, AMP). There is something about focusing on the past that can often leave us in a position of complacency and some of us can attest to that. We can become thoroughly satisfied with our successes or mentally and emotionally crippled by our failures. We can spend so much time looking backward that we fail to move forward timely and effectively. There is a reason the rearview mirror in cars is so small relative to the windshield. We glance back every now and again but we look in front. There are important lessons we can learn from our experiences and we should learn them, but let us not build tents around those experiences.
What are some of the things God wants us to forget? Our past losses, sorrows and sufferings; associations and traditions that hindered His working in our lives; the focus on self; past accomplishments and achievements that would distract us from offering glory to Him; and our failures, to name a few. As we get ready to begin the new year, God stands poised yet again to do new things that shall “spring forth.” If 2019 has been a year of failure and broken dreams, 2020 can be the opposite; if it was successful, there are more victories to be celebrated. We serve an awesome God to whom nothing is impossible (Jeremiah 32:26-27; Matthew 19:26).
Let us take God at His Word. Forgetting the former things and looking forward to the “new thing” He will be doing in our hearts and lives. It is my prayer that He surprises us in ways far beyond anything we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), and I pray that especially for you and yours for this New Year. He is faithful that promised (Hebrews 10:23).