Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Friend to Friend
As humans, we tend to remember what we need to forget and forget what we need to remember. God, on the other hand, forgets what He promises to forget and remembers what He promises to remember. God said, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17).
Paul tells us one of the secrets to his success as a Christian and in life. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).
In the Bible, God tells us that He “forgets” our sins and remembers them no more. But how does an omniscient, all-knowing God forget? Let’s look at the antonym to get a better understanding.
There are many events in the Bible that begin with the words “God remembered.” “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). “He (God) remembered Abraham” (Genesis 19:29). “God remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22). “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24). In each incident, God’s remembering meant that He was about to do something – God was about to act.
Therefore, if God’s remembering means He is about to act, then God forgetting means that He is not going to act. “For I will forgive their wickedness,” He says, “and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). He forgets our sins – He is not going to act upon them.
Likewise, while we cannot physically forget the details of the wounds of our past, we can choose not to act on them. We can choose to forgive the person who has hurt us and not allow the memory of the offense to control our lives. In that sense, we can forgive and forget.
When Paul talks about forgetting he does not mean that he will or even can wipe an incident from his memory. The Zondervan NIV Commentary of the New Testament notes: “Forgetting did not mean obliterating the memory of his past, but was a conscious refusal to let it absorb his attention and impede his progress.” Paul refused to allow anything from his past control his present. He could tell about it, but without pain, malice, or a hint of revenge.
But it’s too hard, you might say. Friend, God will never tell us to do something that He will not give us the power to do. He has instructed us to forgive…so He will give us the power to do so. He has instructed us to leave the past behind…so He will give us the power to do so. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). “All things” means all things that God has called us to do.
Isaiah wrote, “When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field?” (Isaiah 28:24-25).
I think for many of us, we have been plowing and re-plowing the ground far too long. We’ve been telling and re-telling what was done and how it was done going over the same ground and stirring up the dirt into a giant dust bowl. But there comes a point when it is time to stop plowing up the ground and start planting seeds – until then, we will never see a harvest.
Today, ask God if there is someone you need to forgive, if there is something you need to “forget,” or if there is some ground you need to cease plowing. Then give the memory to God and ask Him to plant good seeds for an incredible harvest!
Dear Lord, I’ve been plowing up the soil of past memories for far too long. Today, I’m going to put away the plow and start planting seeds. When You see me reaching for the plow and going back to rehash old grievances and hurts, I pray that the Holy Spirit will convict me quickly. Today, the past is the past and I’m not looking back.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Are there hurts in your life that you keep stirred up?
Is there a “field” that you continue to plow?
What do you think God wants you to do with those past hurts?
Are you willing to “put the plow away?”
More from the Girlfriends
Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things we ever do. At the same time, it can be one of the most freeing things we ever do. Want to learn more? See my book that takes you through the healing steps of forgiveness: Your Scars are Beautiful, Finding Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past.