Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. – Isaiah 43:18(NIV)
Are you mired by your past? Struggling to let go of past mistakes, failures, and sin even though God has forgiven you?
God wants to do new things in your life. But for that to happen, you need to stop dwelling on the past. Dwelling on the past means reading the same script year in year out. It reopens past wounds and emotions and also creates opportunities for self-sabotage.
Isaiah 43:18 tells us not to remember former things nor consider things that happened in the past. God wants His children to focus on the new things that He is doing in their lives.
Read on for more information on why we should stop dwelling on the past, and how we can stop doing it.
Why you should Stop Dwelling on the Past
1. You Can’t Change the Past
The truth is you cannot change what happened. If anything, dwelling on it will only leave you feeling defeated and anxious about life. No one in this world has a clean past. We have all made mistakes in one way or another. And we shall make more mistakes as long as we’re in this fallen world.
The enemy wants you to believe that dwelling in the past is an excellent way of being remorseful for what you did. But that is not true. God wants you to let go of the past. He wants you to focus on what He is about to do in your life.
2. Dwelling on the Past Causes you to Make More Mistakes
When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, He did not condemn her but told her to sin no more. Jesus never pointed out her sins. He did not allow the Pharisees to stone her even though she had been caught in sin. He didn’t remind her of every single mistake she made in the past. Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more.
We shouldn’t remind ourselves what we have done wrong every day. We should forgive ourselves and accept the forgiveness God has given us.
If we don’t do that, we will live in the condemnation which will cause us to make the same mistakes.
3. It Brings Discontentment
It is okay to learn from your past mistakes. It is also great to remember the great things God has done for you in the past. Remembering past testimonies will encourage us to keep standing firm in faith in difficult times.
But when we focus on past mistakes, it will be hard for us to appreciate the new things God is doing in our lives. You will find yourself feeling discontented instead of being appreciative.
4. Dwelling on the Past Blocks you from Receiving God’s Best
Although God has blessed us with many blessings in heavenly places, many Christians live in defeat. It is not that God has not provided for them, or He is not willing to give them what they are asking for. It’s just that their minds are set on the past, and this blocks them from receiving God’s best.
God wanted to have an intimate relationship with the children of Israel and make them a great nation, but they were stuck in the past (Numbers 21: 4-6). They preferred to remain in bondage as slaves instead of resting in God and getting to know Him.
This wrong mentality caused the children of Israel to live in the wilderness longer than they should have.
They also experienced terrible things like death, attacks from the enemies, and slavery after settling in their promised land.
5. The Past Blocks us from Trusting God Fully
The Bible says to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
We need to trust God irrespective of what we’ve been through or what we’re going through. Trusting God fully also means letting go of the past and embracing the new thing that He is bringing forth in your life.
The past is going to hold you back and even cause you to doubt the promises of God.
Most people give up when they’re on the verge of their breakthrough. You need to believe what God is telling you and to follow His leading irrespective of how you feel or what you did in the past. (What to do when you feel like giving up?)
6. The Past will Harm your Health
When we focus on our past – sins, and mistakes, plus the bad things people did to us, we end up being full of anxiety and depression.
The more you think and meditate on these bad things, the more you sink into anxiety and depression. And this will open up doors for diseases like heart problems.
How do we Stop Dwelling in the Past?
• Focus on the New Things
God has great things in store for every one of us.
But we need to cooperate with Him for these things to manifest in our lives. We get to cooperate with God by focusing on the new thing that He has promised us.
It doesn’t matter whether you see what God has promised you or not. You only need to believe that whatever He has said will come true in your life no matter how long it might take.
Paul is an excellent example of someone who had a dark past but chose not to dwell on it. He decided to forget what was behind and strain towards what was in front of him Philippians 3:13-14. We need to do the same.
Let’s say God has promised you a new job, or maybe you lost your former job because of something you did wrong. Instead of dwelling on the mistakes that you have made, start envisioning the new job God has promised you.
Apply for new jobs in different places, and trust that God will open up a door in one of the places you sent your applications.
• Stay in Step with the Spirit
For you to pursue what God has in store for you, you need to be in step with the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit who will guide you in all things and show you the things to come that God has in store for you (John 14:26).
You need to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit for you to hear his voice and follow His leading. But it will be difficult to be sensitive when you focus on the past. And even if you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, you may find yourself getting confused or doubting what He tells you.
• Renew your Mind
The world will have you believe that the best way to transform your life is to empty your mind. But that is the exact opposite of what the word of God tells us.
We become transformed by renewing our minds with the word of God.
Instead of trying to empty your mind, how about you renew it by studying the word of God.
You will be transformed not just in your mind but in your character and lifestyle. You will also become successful. (
Instead of feeding your mind with past mistakes, how about you feed it with the word of God.
Allow Him to change you inside out. Most people don’t want to go through this process because it takes time. But you’re not going to change your mind in one day or two weeks. It needs to be a continuous process for the rest of your life.
But since most of us love quick results, we end up giving up quickly. Instead of moving forward, we find ourselves in bondage again.
You should not give up just because you have been studying the word for one week and nothing has happened. The word of God will change you inside out. You may experience instant changes in some areas, but some areas will take time.
• Focus on Positive Things in Life
In the book of Philippians 4:8, we are told that we should focus on things that are lovely, true, honest, just, are of good report, and praiseworthy.
Dwelling on your past is the complete opposite of what this verse says. So, when we dwell on the past, we are in a way walking in disobedience because whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
Thinking how bad you are because of the mistakes you have made is not lovely neither it is true.
God has already forgiven you. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Old things have passed away, and those include the terrible things you did in the past.
All things have become new – meaning you should start focusing on the new things God is bringing forth in your life. (10 benefits of focusing on God)
Will it be easy? No, it won’t. But with help from the Holy Spirit, you will be able to shift your focus from the past to the great things that God has in store for you.
• Accept God’s Forgiveness
Although God forgave us while we were still sinners, the sad truth is that many people don’t accept His forgiveness. That is why many people are going to hell because they have rejected this gift that God has given us.
We also have Christians who have not fully accepted God’s forgiveness in certain areas of their lives. Wrong teachings or mindsets have made them believe that God cannot forgive them for some of their mistakes.
They think what they have done is so big that God will never forgive them.
There’s nothing too big or small for God.
He has covered all our sins with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. But we also have a part to play in this. What is our part? That is to accept His forgiveness and walk in it.
It’s only by accepting the forgiveness that we overcome condemnation and walk in the freedom that God has given us through His Son Jesus Christ.
• Forgive Yourself and Others
Forgetting what lies behind starts with forgiving those that have hurt you and forgiving yourself for the mistakes that you have made.
Forgiving people can be challenging, and it can take a long time. Just be patient with yourself because there are moments you will find yourself reliving the bad experience you’ve been through.
Anytime you find yourself reliving bad things someone did to you, declare that you have forgiven them. Ask God to release the pain these people have caused you and any bitterness that you’re carrying in your heart.
You need to also forgive yourself for all the mistakes that you have made.
The truth is you’re going to make many mistakes in the future. Forgiving yourself right now will make it easy for you to forgive yourself in the future.
Besides, God has already forgiven you, so why hold on to something that Jesus already paid for.
Holding on to a mistake means that you value those mistakes more than the high price Jesus paid at the cross.
• Press Towards the Goal
Although we grow up in different backgrounds and go through different experiences, we are pressing towards one goal as believers. That is eternal life.
That is why you need to forget what is behind you and press towards the goal. Remember, we have limited time on earth. Our time in this world is like mist.
We need to focus on the right things that will enable us to achieve those goals. (Philippians 3:14)
I think this lesson from Rabbi Simon Jacobson how to stop dwelling on the past is a good one. It is short but that’s what we need, simple but eye-opening. Hope it will help you too.
Focusing on what lies ahead is the best thing to do. But it’s not easy when one spends most of their time dwelling on the past.
Given that we are our own worst critics, it is easy for us to focus on our mistakes instead of God’s forgiveness.
To walk in the blessings of God and become who God wants us to be, we need to be willing to let go of the past and to focus on the new things God is doing in our lives.
God wants to do amazing things in your life, but you need to cooperate with him so that these things can manifest in your life.
Focus on things that are true, lovely, praiseworthy, noble, and of good report.
Let go of the past and focus on the prize ahead!