Excuses and Past Hurts

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

During a recent sermon, Pastor Joseph spoke a lot about making excuses. Many of us realize how often we make, or even hear, excuses, and they just become a normal part of life--kind of like “little white lies.” And like little white lies, the excuses, little by little, hinder, hurt, and destroy.

We don’t all verbalize our excuses. We don’t all outwardly blame others or play victim to our circumstances or constantly say, “It’s just so hard.” Some of us find other pressing matters to attend to. We keep ourselves busy with things we “need” to do and neglect other things that are actually more important but that our pride or laziness doesn’t want us to deal with. And I’m sure there are some of us who do both.

One thing that really stood out was when Pastor Joseph said “Some of you have been legitimately hurt, but you are not permitted to live in the past. Your identity is in Christ.” Do we ever make the connection that living in the past is one big excuse for not doing what we’re supposed to do today?

I’ve had to overcome a lot of this in my own life. My grandmother grew up without a mom, and the grandma who lived with her was, as my grandma described her, “hateful.” So while my grandma learned how to keep a house and cook, she didn’t have a godly example for a mother. She had to learn as she went to be a godly mother herself. Besides that, my grandpa didn’t go to church with my grandma and the three kids, so while he provided physically for his wife and children, he didn’t have the Biblical foundation for a Christian family.

My grandma was a much better example to my mom than her grandma was to her, but the situation still wasn’t ideal. My mom grew up to be, in many ways, a loving and responsible woman. However, she and dad divorced when I was two, and my stepdad shirked responsibilities and drank too much. He also didn’t go to church even though my mom took my sister and me every Sunday.

My mom, like my grandma, was a good cook and housekeeper who loved her husband and children, but she had to bear more responsibilities than a wife and mother should have to bear. She didn’t have good spiritual leading or discipleship from her husband or her church. So, I grew up in a nice house with nice food and clothes but without adequate training for providing for a family myself.

By the grace of God, I never lost my faith and made it through losing my mom at twelve and my rebellious high school and college years relatively unscathed. (I’m pretty sure I tried to get in trouble, but God held me back from a lot.)

Here’s my point in saying all this: For the first few years of my marriage, I unintentionally used my past as an excuse for not being a good wife or mom. No one had “taught” me the things I was supposed to do, so I just didn’t do them. I wasn’t reading the Bible much, and I wasn’t even doing the things I knew wives and moms were supposed to do--like sweeping floors, for crying out loud. But over time God has changed my heart to do these things.

It’s been a slow, difficult process, but I’ve seen over time that God has surrounded me with people who can help me with these things. I have a wonderful mother-in-law who has imparted much wisdom to me these eleven-ish years. I can look at my mom’s and grandma’s examples and try to imitate some of what they’ve done. I’m now in a good church with a bunch of great wives and moms who can help me with any struggles I have on this subject. And most importantly, I have God’s Word and the right goal--God’s glory--in front of me.

In my conversations and observations, I’ve heard and seen at least three different heart conditions. The first is the woman who, when pressed, intentionally reverts back to all the hurt in her past and how much it’s affecting her now. She’s finding her identity in what’s happened to her and not in what God identifies her as: a new creation. If you are a Christian, you can’t hold on to the past and also move forward. It will hold you back, and you have to make the decision to let go of it. If this is you, please read Philippians 3 and pay special attention to verses 13 and 14: Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This isn’t the only time in his letters Paul talks about not letting his past define or hinder him. As a former persecutor of the Church, he could have let his guilty conscience destroy him. He could have been bitter toward everyone who taught him wrong. He could have been angry about the times he was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked, and he could have given up on preaching the Gospel. But he knew the joy set before him. He knew his identity was in Jesus, and he knew God’s glory, not his own comfort, was the goal.

The second heart condition I’ve seen is the woman who’s struggling to let go of her past. She desperately wants to embrace her identity in Christ, but she’s so traumatized by what’s happened to her and overwhelmed by her present responsibilities that when she tries to let go of the past it seems like it follows her and clings to her. If this is you, memorize 1 Peter 5:6-10: Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. The Devil wants you to be a victim. Resist him.

The third heart condition I’ve seen is that of the woman who, by God’s grace, really is forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. This doesn’t mean she never slips or despairs, but it’s not a way of life. Instead of living in her past or breathlessly fighting it, she’s able to use it to help others--not by way of complaining or commiserating, but by encouraging others to move on and strive with all their strength for God’s glory. If this is you, pray that God would keep you from pride and that he would give you a soft heart toward others who are struggling. People who have been through hard things can sometimes be calloused toward others who have gone through (or are going through) their own past struggles. Sound of Sanity recently had a good episode about this called The Past Pain Principle. I recommend it to anyone who has this problem… like myself. Remember 1 Corinthians 15: 9-11: For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Regardless of what’s happened in your past and your relationship to it, continually pray that God’s will be done. Remind yourself that His requirement for you is that you glorify Him and love Him over all else. No excuses.

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