Fear of the Past: Why You Should Let Go
I hate fear. I think that fear is something that runs most of civilization, most of life, most people, most circumstances and decisions. I hate it. There are a couple main kinds of fear that tend to take control. Fear of failure. Fear of what people think of you. Fear of the truth. Fear of the past.
I’m hopefully going to do a four-blog series on these fears, but this time I’m gonna focus on the last one: fear of the past.
I’ve been getting into trying to be artistic lately and make some quote-doodles with “cool” fonts (or at least that’s what I tell myself) and creative and uplifting quotes. I call them my inspirational doodles. And then of course I hang them on my wall and read my own words over and over again...I think I’m so cool. Whatever. But anyways, I recently wrote some words in one of my doodles that may become a real quote when I’m famous, and they are, “Freed from the pain of the past, and the uncertainty of the future. Freed to live in the present.” Beside it I wrote Romans 8:2, which says, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Freedom is such a powerful thing. And guess what? God has freed us from the pain of the past.
What I’m saying is, you can’t let the past dictate the future. Thinking about and letting the pain and the awful experiences of the past control your future is only going to create more pain and awful experiences. Believe me, I am queen of living in the past. Not even just living in it, but thinking about it...all the time. And what do I mean by living in the past? Mulling it over, reliving it in your mind, regretting it, refusing to forgive the person who hurt you, refusing to accept the situation that pained you. Now all of that regret and guilt and crap is all fine and dandy, if you want to live your life all depressed I know there’s nothing I can say to stop you. But the problem with replaying the past is that eventually, you’re going to be so hurt by it that you’re not going to want to try again. And it’s going to hurt both your present and your future.
A relationship is a perfect and simple example, of course. Someone hurt you in the past, so you’re afraid to let anyone in again. Someone abused you, so every time you get playfully punched you freak out and won’t let anyone touch you. Someone told you they loved you and then walked away. You’re afraid to say those words again, or worse, hear them said to you. In general, you’re just afraid to love again. But I wish you could realize that you’re missing out on the bigger and better things waiting for you. Those people who hurt you won’t matter in the long run. They don’t matter in your present, and sure as heck don’t matter in your future. This is a very specific example of fear of the past, but as far as relationships go, God has someone waiting for you and shutting yourself off because of what happened before is only hurting yourself.
I understand that hurt is a real thing and I understand there’s a time to mourn the loss of someone or something. But then there’s a time to move on. And when that time comes, you’re not the victim anymore. You’re letting it control you. And I understand a lot of you are going to disagree with that because it does feel so helpless sometimes. But remember what I said about freedom before? That fear of living, that fear of moving on, even that fear of finding something that could make you happy again; you can be set free of these things by God. So you’re so used to living in depression and self-pity that you’re afraid to feel happiness again because you forgot how it felt. And when you do feel happiness, that’s just an opportunity for pain to sweep back in and feel even worse than before. So you’re afraid to find something better because you just can’t let go of what you’ve known before. Maybe you don’t want someone else than the one who just broke your heart; maybe nothing in you wants to move on from it. But I’m asking you, deep down is that really the kind of life you want to live?
Maybe the reason you fear the past repeating itself is because of something you did. Something you’re worried you’ll do again and never be able to escape. I’ve felt that way a lot. You want to change, but every day you fail because you view yourself as you were in the past instead of who you are here and now. God’s mercies are new every morning, and His grace forgives every past day that you sinned and fell short. Then why fear the past coming true again? Even if you fall back one day to what used to be, you have the future! You don’t have to be the past you, you can be the future you. The fear of the past is what drives us back to our old sins and actions, and keeps us from changing and moving forward.
The fear of the past is what keeps you from living. That past was the present once, and you lived it with your whole heart, so why not do that again? Your life will never go anywhere if you sit there afraid of what could happen. You have one life so go live it. (YOLO...sorry, couldn't help it)
I guess fear of the past could also be called fear of the future, because they’re basically the same thing. That fear of the past repeating itself is fear of the future. And all this thinking about and regretting the past and worrying about the future is letting the present pass you by. And one day you’ll wake up and realize that you have no present left, because it all ran out while you were wallowing in your past and stressing about it repeating itself in the future.
I write these words to convince myself of this too, because it’s definitely been on my mind and heart recently. Letting go and moving on is hands down one of the hardest parts of life, but I promise you, it is the most freeing and joyful feeling. It’s like feeling a bag of rocks lifted from your shoulders, like coming up from underwater and breathing again, like seeing the sun come out after there’s been nothing but clouds for days.
The past is the past, and there’s nothing that regret will do. Regretting won’t change the past; the only thing you can change is the present and the future. So why not focus on that? God put those things in your past for a reason, and left them in the past for a reason. The present is the greatest gift He gave you, so use it to feel the joy that He offers, to spread that joy to those who don’t have it, and to give glory to Him for each new day that He gives. We only have one chance at every day, so when we wake up let’s make that day the best day it can be, leaving the previous day behind, and the one before that, and the years before that. God’s mercies are new every morning, and that is the power of His grace. Whether it’s someone who hurt you or something you did that you can’t escape, I'm telling you that you can escape. Live with no regrets. Live freed of the uncertainty of the future. Live with the time God has given you right now.
I don’t want this to be me berating you or trying to debate or convince you why or that I’m right. I want this to be a message of hope and joy that if you’re living in fear of the past and the future, you can be freed from that with one prayer, with one life change, and that there is so much more joy to life than what you’re experiencing right now.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15