So earlier this afternoon, I was in a discussion with two friends. They challenged me with a very difficult question. “Why is it that you cannot let some of these things go? Why do have a hard time moving on from the past?” They were clearly right and their question has been resounding in my head all day. Why is it that I find it so difficult to let go of the past? As I have considered the question, it has become clear to me that my inability to let go is caused by my obsessive focus on an important and essential fact. This fact is that I am not worthy of God’s blessings, His love, His forgiveness or His mercy.
Now this is quite clearly a fact. You don’t know me, but if you did you would agree. A person like me does not deserve love or forgiveness or mercy or kindness. I cannot earn it, I cannot pay it back if I put it on layaway, I am incapable of producing it myself and offered it I immediately require more. This is a 100% true fact and it is vital because without recognizing it I am incapable of accepting the offer that God made to me through the cross of Jesus Christ.
Knowing what I deserve, however, has an unfortunate side-effect. That is, I find it difficult to trust in God’s blessing, God’s protection and God’s gracious provision. When I leave my home, for example, I find it difficult to believe that my stuff will not be robbed or harmed in some way. Why would it be? I don’t deserve God’s protection in this way. With the kind of things that come out of my heart when someone cuts me off on the freeway or says something that hurts my feelings, for example, how can I say that I deserve anything good? The relentless focus on the fact of my own evil causes me to be suspicious, hostile and insecure. I don’t believe I deserve love or friendship or anything good and so I have a hard time trusting it when it is offered to me.
Once I identified why I have such a hard time trusting in good things and blessing, the natural follow up question came to my mind. How can I overcome this problem? Focusing on what I deserve causes me so many difficulties and makes my life so much worse than it needs to be. How can I let go? How can I be free of the lead weight of my own inadequacy? Paul tells us the answer in Philippians
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
What Paul is saying here is the key to overcoming negativity is to focus on the positive. What is the most positive fact that I know? The infinite goodness, generosity, kindness, mercy, love and forgiveness of my Lord. As compared to this, the Mount Everest of facts, the fact of my own inadequacy is a tiny little mole-hill fact. The key for me to let go of the injuries of the past and be free of the prison of what I deserve is to remember the goodness of the Lord.