How to Stop Living in the Past and Seize the Future

silhouette of man breaking free from chains, how to stop living in your past and seize your future

How to Stop Living in the Past and Seize the Future

My husband and I just moved to Arizona. Tons of outdoors adventures are to be found here, including one of my favorites: hiking. We attempted our first hike in the Arizona heat recently and the hike was nothing but uphill. It was an exciting, yet intense journey in front of us. But we had a goal in mind, and that was to make it to the top of the mountain.

Most the time, the goal of hiking is to reach the reward waiting at the end of the journey. Usually it’s an amazing view, a waterfall, or just the feeling of accomplishment.

Now, can you imagine hiking uphill with chains tied to your ankles? With every step you took moving forward, the chains pulled you back? Perhaps you would make it to the top of the mountain eventually. But you wouldn’t make it to the top without a fight. Or, maybe you decide to just give up altogether.

Carrying around some of the chains from your past will not only make the journey miserable and steal your joy from the whole adventure, but it limits you, grounding you from moving forward.

Before you can step into the height and beauty of the future for all that God has in store for you in this life, you must break off any chains that may be holding you back.

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A sad woman sitting on the floor

Unchain from Your Hurtful Past

Once we make the decision to surrender our lives to God and walk with Him, many times one of the first things God may do is take us back to our past. He does this not to torture us, but so that we can begin to unchain ourselves from our hurtful past, and clean up any wreckage that may have occurred.

Before you can move forward into God's divine purpose for your life, you first may have to deal with specific problems from your past. These can come from decisions you or someone else made that resulted in pain. Wherever the hurt in your past comes from, it’s important that we find the courage to  temporarily park there, simply to heal and then remove the hurtful chains.

It’s almost impossible to move forward without unchaining yourself. Perhaps you are going into a new relationship, but you are still carrying the chains from your last one. These chains may be holding your back and keeping you from fully embracing the future.  Remember, Jesus came to set us free. Galatians 5:1 says, “for it is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage [slavery].”

Spend some time with God and let him reveal to you those things that are still chaining you to your past. And then begin to untangle and unchain yourself hurts from the past, so you can release yourself from the bondage to your past, and you can move forward. We are not slaves to our past!

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<strong>Let Go of the Way You Thought Things Would Be</strong>

Let Go of the Way You Thought Things Would Be

It can be frightening, but necessary to learn to let go, not just of those hurtful chains from our past, but also of our idea of how we thought things were supposed to turn out. Some of our greatest disappointments will come as we wait for the life that we thought we would have. This leaves us stuck, never moving towards the future. We stay stuck in the past, when we believed certain things were supposed to happen a certain way.

Don’t focus on what should have been, but rather focus on what will be. Jesus and his disciples could have remained in mourning after their Savior was brutally beaten and hung on a cross (Mark 10:34). I’m sure they thought this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. But the power of Christ's resurrection launched them into their mission to expand the church and preach the gospel to the lost moving towards the hope of the future. Where do you need Jesus' resurrection power? 

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man looking up thinking outdoors

Remembering the Past vs. Living in the Past 

There is a difference to remembering the past versus actually living in the past. You won’t find God in the past. His name is not I WAS, His name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). If we live in the past, we’ll miss what God wants to do next, in the future.

Now, remembering the past is a beautiful thing. In fact, remembering the past is remembering those moments where God’s faithfulness shone through. So when we doubt or fear the future, it’s important to remember the faithfulness of God in the past. God Himself reminded the Israelites to “remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years” (Deuteronomy 8). For He led them out of Egypt out of the hands of Pharaoh.

To remember holy divine moments is to remember God’s faithfulness. I encourage you to always remember His faithfulness. But to try to live and dwell in the past, it’s difficult to move forward where God is ready to create something new. As you’re living in the past, you’re missing the opportunity to seize the future God has for you. Don’t linger in any place for too long or you will miss what’s ahead.

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back view of man climbing over mountain range at sunrise

Running the Race Forward Not Backward

As we begin to heal our past, remembering the past and the Lord’s faithfulness, it’s now time to put our attention forward, not backward. Paul encourages us in Philippians 3:13-14 as to where our attention should now be focused. He states, “but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is referring to athletes who run a race, emphasizing the importance of keepings one’s eyes focused looking forward, not turning to glance behind. Looking back would slow the runner down, losing the focus on the path ahead. When we look at the meaning of forgetting, it refers to intentional, calculating, and purposeful neglect. Friends—it's a deliberate forgetting of the past, so that we can have clear sights ahead. The dictionary actually describes the word "seize" as "taking an opportunity or initiative eagerly and decisively." So "forgetting what is behind and seizing the future" is choosing to look forward with purpose. It won’t just happen, it must take a purposeful decision on our end to step and look forward. As we run this race of faith, let’s keep our eyes looking forward, not staring, or even peeking backwards.

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Your Story Is a Part of Your Purpose

Your Story Is a Part of Your Purpose

Many of us want to move forward. Many of us want to let go of what is tripping us up about our past. Many of us know that in order to move forward and seize the future ahead, we must let go of things of the past. If many of us know this, why is it so hard then to actually move forward?

In Matthew 22:14 Jesus says, “many are called, but few are chosen.” The Lord wants us to come up into His higher calling for our lives. He wants us healed of our pasts. He healed many people in the Bible with broken pasts, and ended up changing their entire future. The women at the well and her past provocative lifestyle, or Paul who murdered Christians, and King David, an adulterer. All these characters of the Bible, whom we know as heroes, had pasts they could have clung onto, but they chose to take that step to move forward, and they ended up living lives that still impact us today. They made a significant difference as they helped expand the Kingdom, but they all had to let go of their pasts in order to seize the future ahead.

There is nothing too shameful, too far gone, too hidden about your past that you can’t move forward from. For this is why Jesus came; to forgive and die for our sins (John 3:16), and anything in our pasts that threaten to hold us down in shame. Make your past story your purpose for today. Make the mess of your past your message you share with others today. Your purpose is about your past story and God will “work together all things for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). He can turn the bad into good. We are all called to go higher with the Lord, but not all choose to move forward as we are still tied to our pasts. Make the decision today and choose to use your past for His purpose.

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Looking Forward and Seizing the Future

We all have treasured memories from our pasts that we will never forget. Just so, we also have many tormenting or shameful things from our pasts. Our past is a part of who we are and who we have become in the Lord. Let’s make sure we are remembering the past, and not living in it. Let’s go through the painful process of unchaining ourselves from things we attached to in the past as God wants us to live in complete freedom. Let's then run the race forward, bound to nothing holding us back. Even painful moments from our pasts can been used by God, like He did with many others who went before us, and He wants to do the same with you and I today. Do not let your past stop and prevent you from becoming everything that God is calling you to become in Him. Seize the future ahead and use all that past for His mighty purpose.

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Alisha Headley is a writer + speaker who has a desire to meet the everyday woman in her everyday life with biblical truth. Stepping into her true calling, she left the corporate world behind as a former-financial VP to love on her family as a stay-at-home wifey + dog mama, while also being able to pursue her passion as a writer. Healing from a chapter of life consumed with lies she once believed about herself, she is inspired to point women to Christ to experience the freedom + power to overcome those lies with the truth written in God’s word. In her free time, Alisha enjoys road trips around the country, working out so she can eat her favorite foods, and creatively styling her outfits with a craft for fashion. Alisha is a proud wifey and dog mama living in Scottsdale, Arizona.

You can follow her blog by visiting her website or connect with her on facebook + instagram.