Christ has paid the full price for your sins and your past is not held against you. If that is the case, why do so many people struggle with what has taken place in their lives before they became Christians or even since. A person’s past struggles may include things he has done, spoken, or trauma that has been committed against him. In this article we will address the need and means to overcome your past.
Proper Perspective of the Past
Because of past rejections, some people find it difficult to truly believe that God loves them. It is easy for them to believe that God loves others. This person may have a strong love for God, but it is hard for him to receive the Father’s love for himself. Because someone has trouble receiving His love, he also struggles with forgiveness from the past. This type of individual will often say, “I know God forgives me, but I just can’t forgive myself.” It is true, he has a mental knowledge that God is willing and has forgiven him, but he does not have an experiential knowledge of His love and forgiveness. Once a person has truly been embraced by the Father’s love and has received a working revelation of His love, that is all that matters. Once you have received the revelation of God’s forgiveness, you will know that you do not have the right to go and dredge up anything that God has forgiven and removed (Ps 103:12; Isa 38:17).
Past experiences can stand as a block to receiving the heavenly Father’s love. This often is tied to an individual’s perception of love from earthly parents, particularly a father. Because we are born with the sinful nature, it is possible for you to have grown up in a loving environment, but still feel isolated and unloved. Never forget, the devil is the father of all lies. You could have been told all your life that you were unfit and unlovable by Satan himself. You can have feelings of rejection without abusive or disengaged parents. It is possible for parents to have communicated their love, but because of rebellion or sin in the life of the child, that child will experience similar feelings of isolation. Remember, perception is truth to the person who is experiencing the trauma.
All families are dysfunctional to some degree. Because all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, the perfect home does not exist. Even in the best of families, unfortunate events will happen that bring hurts and wounds. Healthy families are not conflict-free, but rather, they have learned conflict resolution. In truth, most parents did the best job they could with the knowledge and skills they possessed. They too were often victims of their own past which was never addressed, thus it may be passed on to the next generation.
Because of our need to identify events from the past in these upcoming lessons, it is important to not play the blame game for your present condition. You cannot change what has happened to you by heaping up guilt or revenge on parents or siblings. This will only produce self-pity and further isolate you. That in and of itself will block the Father’s love because ultimately you must deal with the fact that God placed you in the family in which you were born. You must decide if you are going to be a victim or victor concerning your past. While it is appropriate and necessary to examine your past in order to identify traumas or transgressions, you must remember your problem is not with what has happened to you, but what your response has been to what happened to you. The reason to examine the past is to apply God’s grace, forgiveness, and love to those events.
We have biblical examples of people who encountered very harmful and difficult experiences in life, yet it was turned for their good. Joseph is just one great example of someone who grew up in a dysfunctional family, yet he fulfilled God’s purpose for his life. He had a father who favored him, and thus he suffered sibling rivalry. His mother died while he was young. He endured betrayal at the hands of his brothers, yet he was able to see God as sovereign in his circumstances. He gave the proper response to these events.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Joseph saw how God used these trials and sufferings to bring him where he needed to be. You must decide which way you will view your life’s experiences. Knowing that God has a way to make all things work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28), you will mature into a stronger person. You can profit from your adverse past. You will be able to see more clearly the changes that are needed in your own life. You will also be able to identify with those who are suffering from their past. God often uses such events in a person’s life to become the strength of that individual’s ministry to others.
You must properly address your past to overcome it. Some people believe they can simply push problems and feelings aside and not deal with them. These problems do not go away but become massive emotional baggage.
Evidence of the Past
When a person becomes a Christian the past is forgiven, but there may be evidence of hurt or damaged emotions that God must heal by bringing the good news of the Gospel into these damaged emotions.
Some common evidence
1) Deep Sense of Unworthiness. This produces feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and anxiety. Sometimes you can see this in a person’s posture. Common remarks – “ I’m no good,” or, “No one could ever possibly love me.”
2) Super Sensitivity. This individual will give an inordinate response to normal circumstances. Conflicts are common with relationships. Common remarks – “People are not friendly,” or, “People hurt me!”
3) Persistent Fears. Fear of failure or not measuring up can be another evidence of the past. Common remarks – “This is not going to work out,” or, “You just don’t know what could happen.”
4) Self-Pity. This is an excessive amount of selfishness that can stem from past hurts. Common remarks – “I just care so much. Why doesn’t he?” or “Why has this happened to me?”
5) Perfectionists. This person can never seem to do something well enough. He can be judgmental of other’s efforts as well. Common remarks – “Can’t anybody do anything right?” or “I can’t believe I did that.”
6) Distrust of Authority. Defiance, stubbornness, and outright rebellion may come from past trauma. Common remarks – “Nobody is going to tell me what to do,” or, “I am not being anybody’s yes man.”
7) Harshness. This person has a hard time seeing when he is mean. Comments that hurt others are seen as normal. Common remarks –“They are just too sensitive,” or “Get over it.”
8) Addictions. Addictions of all kinds, substance and sexual.
Damaged emotions are not necessarily the only reason for the above-mentioned struggles; however, one should examine to see where these patterns were present in his family or when they began in his life.
About the Author:
Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.
Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.