By Lynette Kittle, Crosswalk.com
Taking a Look at Looking Back
By Lynette Kittle
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 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
Looking back can be a two-edged sword, on one side offering gained wisdom from former experiences, and on the other side, stirring up a longing for former things that aren’t in God’s will or plan for us.
Like Proverbs 4:25, urges, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”
The High Cost of Looking Back
In stories like Lot and his family, Scripture gives strong caution in looking back. During their evacuation from Sodom and Gomorrah, although instructed by an angel to not look back at the destruction taking place, Lot’s wife couldn’t resist and ended up paying the ultimate price by turning into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:17-26). Likewise, looking back occurred as Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, away from a life of slavery and bondage, a place where they should have been overjoyed to leave with no desire to turn back.
Yet Scripture describes how they hadn’t even crossed through the Red Sea when some were already looking back with longing, already unhappy and dissatisfied on their journey to freedom, remembering their lives of captivity through rose-colored glasses (Exodus 14:11-14). Both examples warn of the danger second thoughts can bring, of coloring what’s left behind in deceptive ways. Sodom and Gomorrah was the most evil and wicked place of its time, so why would anyone want to return there?
As well, Egypt was a place of forced labor for the Children of Israel, so why would they ever be tempted to return there over being free? Past things often lures individuals who have been set free, back to places of entrapment and oppression.
What Does Jesus Say about Looking Back
In Luke 9:62, Christ cautions about looking back. “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”
If we take our eyes off what we’re doing to look back, our purpose can be marred the instant we turn away to look at the past with desire; even if we’re not actually planning on returning there. Although it may seem what’s the harm because it’s just a physical look, yet in reality, it’s revealing a serious heart issue. As Jesus warns about lust in Matthew 5, looking back at former things with a longing to return to them, even without actually taking a physical step to go back, indicates a heart looking to turn away from God.
How Looking Back Can Benefit
In many ways though, looking back without a desire to return, can be helpful to moving forward as we learn wisdom, insight, and knowledge through the various experiences. Hindsight can also offer us wisdom for future situations. As James 1:1-4 describes, we can see how various trials and testing in life help us to grow in our faith and push us forward in perseverance. Like Peter learned after denying Christ three times, reflecting on past actions can help us to move ahead in making better choices (Luke 22:54-62).
As well, it’s comforting to know even with things of the past that once tripped us up, God finds a way to work through them to fine tune and strengthen us. As Romans 8:28 assures, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
In looking ahead in life, how we look back reveals the current condition of our heart. Looking back at things in a way that stirs up longing for something God has freed us from leads to disobedience. But looking back in the light of God’s word and wisdom can help to enrich our lives, as we move forward in life.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Are there things from your past trying to lure you back again and away from God? If so, ask God to help keep your eyes fixed on Him and to look forward to your future in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/m-imagephotography
Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.