A year ago, I first picked up A Painful Past because I’m always trying to grow as a minister of grace and truth to those whom the Lord calls me to serve. However, as is almost always the case, my own heart was ministered to in numerous ways that I did not expect. A Painful Past: Healing and Moving Forward is a unique contribution to the 31-day Devotionals for Life series from P&R Publishing. In this valuable resource, Lauren Whitman gently brings the Word of God to bear upon our mind as we all wrestle with things in our past that brought pain then, and often still do.
Three Foundational Truths
Lauren takes us on a journey that is sometimes hard, but is based on three foundational truths which encompass all of us.
- When we carry a sense of regret that our lives do not amount to all they could have, the Lord has compassion on our broken hearts. He has compassion for you.
- When we have been mistreated by others, the Lord cares and moves toward us. He moves toward you.
- Even when we have incurred suffering and hardship from our own sins and choices, God is still turned toward us. He is turned toward you.
As always, I read a book with a pen or highlighter in my right hand, marking it up as I go. Here are what I think are life-changing sentences from A Painful Past.
The curse of sin reaches far and wide, but the Lord’s kindness and concern go farther still. You and your suffering are on his heart. Because you are on his heart, he stands ready to both comfort you and bring you hope. (p. 10)
[Reflecting on Psalm 62:8], God is not saying to you, “Get your heart together, and then pour it out to me.” He doesn’t place that kind of condition on his invitation. Instead, you can come to him as you are. You don’t have to come from where you wish you were or as you think you should be. Come as you are right now. (p. 15)
[God] is undistracted; you have his attention. He values your thoughts and concerns. What is on your heart matters to him, so he is not going to let what you say fall on deaf ears. He cares too much. (p. 17)
Zacchaeus’s unholiness–and our unholiness–is not threat to Jesus. Holy consumes unholy–but it can’t go the other ways. The direction is essential. We can’t make Jesus unholy with our unholiness, but he can make us holy when he comes close to us and unites with us. (p. 20)
Even when something is happening around us or to us, the choice of how to respond is ours. We choose. We aren’t just onlookers. We think, we act, we feel. (p. 31)
Left on your own, you might be tempted to tell a false story about yourself, such as “My past ruined my life” or “My past determines my future.” But God is the one who tells the true narrative of your life. (p. 45)
Living with a painful past can feel like you are always oriented toward what happened. It’s like your life is endlessly stuck back there. But because of the reality of Christ’s coming, you can orient yourself to today and even tomorrow. His story changes everything for you (p. 48)
God’s activity in your life is not only to carve away what needs to go. He is also creating newness within you that will bloom and flourish for all eternity. (p. 62)
[What] happened in your past matters. Our faith leads us to honestly and accurately assess what is true, so it would be wrong to take what happened and gloss over it, minimize it, or just forget it. The key to moving forward is putting your past in its proper place. (p. 65)
God is in the process with you, so you can trust that you are moving forward. God is taking you somewhere good. You are never stagnant because you have a Shepherd who joins you on the journey and guides you. (p. 77)
If you (or someone you know) struggles with hurt, regret, or defining yourself by your past, you will be richly blessed and graciously counseled through Lauren’s devotional, A Painful Past: Healing and Moving Forward. This past year, I’ve coached several counselors-in-training who have seen wonderful fruit in using this resource with those they counsel. I recommend it highly.