How Looking Back Can Help You Face What’s Ahead
For over 10 years, I spent the days between Christmas and New Year’s at a church retreat in the tiny town of Pulaski, Mississippi. It was the camp where I first accepted Jesus, and every year that I went back (first as a student and then as a small group leader), I was flooded with memories of amazing moments spent with the Lord.
Surrounded by the same woods and lake, I couldn’t help but think about how I had changed since the previous year. What had I learned? How had I grown? What had God shown me since I was last there? I looked forward to going to this camp each year because it was a reminder of God’s goodness. It became a chance to not only reconnect with the Lord, but to also reflect on where I’d been.
All throughout the Bible, God asks His people to remember things. Specifically, in Joshua 4, after the Lord made a way for the Israelites to safely cross the Jordan, He tells them to make a pile of twelve stones to remember what happened. The passage reads:
“And he said to the people of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers in times to come, “What do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, “Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever’” (Joshua 4: 21-24, ESV).
God knows that we, like the Israelites, are forgetful people. We see God’s power at work and witness His hand in our lives, but the next time we face something uncertain or scary, we instantly retreat in fear.
I find myself being fearful a lot lately. During this season of my life, which seems to be filled with so much uncertainty, I’m seeking a lot of answers. Where will I live? What will my career be? Who will I marry? It’s easy for me to be afraid of the future.
I so often have to be reminded that God is in control, not me. One way I help myself remember this is by writing down answered prayers and reflecting on when I’ve seen God work in my life. When I’m facing financial worries, I recall a time when He provided. When I’m anxious over a situation that seems to be hopeless, I remember when the Lord worked out a problem in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Just as we take part in many traditions that help us remember what God has done for us as a body of believers, it’s also important to practice remembering what God has done for us personally. Reflecting on times where I’ve experienced the Lord’s faithfulness, power, or love give me courage to face what’s ahead and give me confidence to share those stories with others.
I’m so thankful that I have a place where every time I visit, I’m reminded of the Lord’s sovereignty. Do you have a place like that? What about a journal where you keep your answered prayers? Or a memento you place on your desk?
Whatever your pile of stones is, find a way to remember specific moments of God’s faithfulness and tell others about it. That way, when you feel fearful or unworthy, you can turn to the One who is always powerful and able.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (Psalms 77:11, ESV).
We may be mid-year, but today is as a good time as December/January to take a look back at the previous year and to check in where you’re headed for the rest of the year!
Here are a few journaling prompts:
Big or small, what did the last year teach you?
What remains confusing, unanswered, or unresolved?
Look back the following areas and rank (1 to 10, 1 being not satisfied and 10 being extremely satisfied) how well you tended to each area of your life in the last year (and jot down a few notes for why you graded each area with that score!): Health, Friends, Family, Spouse/Significant Other, Finances, Work, and Spiritual + Personal Growth.
Read through your responses on the above: what common themes and threads do you noticed? How will this change how you live out the rest of this year?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abigail is a 25-year-old freelance writer from Jackson, MS who earned her bachelor's degree in journalism and English from Mississippi College in 2015. She spends most of her time climbing ladders and recommending her favorite authors at Lemuria Books. You can read more of her writing at abbiewalker.com!