We all need to regard ourselves as important. We also long to feel loved, acceptable and safe. When we don’t have these things, hopefully we will begin a search for them rather than resigning ourselves to be unhappy.

Some of us had parents who made us feel important. But parents often fail to give us unconditional importance. So, many of us sought conditional importance in the eyes of our parents that required us to jump through various hoops to earn. And what might those hoops have been?

In my family it was good grades, doing well in sports, and avoiding their criticisms. But no matter how hard I tried, I never seemed to measure up.

Others of us sought approval from relatives, friends, or teachers. But when we think we have earned their approval, we may have asked ourselves, “How do I know what they really think of me anyway?”, or “Is what they think of me the truth?”

As an adult, I unknowingly gave certain people the power to define me. I looked to them to give me importance. But it never satisfied me for long. It never was enough.

I remember for several years I sought a particular leader’s approval to regard myself as important. I didn’t have the confidence within me that I was important based on my opinion. But if he treated me as if I were, I could feel better about myself. But he never treated me as if he thought I was important.

Besides the struggle to convince others to think we are important so that we can feel significant, another obstacle is that we are not needed by most people. “If somehow I can be needed by many people, I would feel more important” we think to ourselves. But we are limited in meeting others’ needs, and it is impossible to be needed enough to feel important consistently. Soon, we are back chasing the bright, illusive butterfly of significance.

We may set arbitrary standards to measure our worth. We think that we need to be an engineer to be successful. Or, we have to become a middle manager by forty to be important. Or, we need to be married and have three kids to attain significance. But when we meet these standards, we soon realize that we are chasing fantasies and want still more.

Others of us search for importance in fame or wealth. But how much is enough to feel significant?

The truth that we are important by just being ourselves alludes most of us. Impressing people, performing well at work and holding leadership positions makes more sense.

However, God has made us this way – to want to be important but never permanently finding it apart from depending on how important we are to him. He says to us who look to him for our importance that we are precious and honored. Where can we find a better reason to regard ourselves as important than being one of his children? “See how much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

He also tells us that he has made us “only a little lower than God and crowned us with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). We are the crowning achievement of his creation! That should make us feel significant.

Therefore, our search for significance can be over. We no longer need to strive for it. We are already important! If God thinks we are important, so we are.

May we turn away from the futile chase to be important. We will never attain what God has given to us as a gift for trusting in him. May we accept the truth – we are important!

What do you rely on to feel important? How is that working for you?

Peace seems to be something we all strive for but never quite find. There always seems to be something to disturb our tranquility. Whether it’s a root canal, unexpected bills, or being injured doing projects around the house, there always seems to be something that makes us feel out-of-control.

As a result, peace often eludes us. The everyday pitter-patter of problems rob us of our sense of being safe. Why do we let this happen? Why can’t we rise above our circumstances and not let our problems make us so worried and fearful?

Professional counselors tell us that it’s not our circumstances that give us peace, but our perception of them. If we perceive our circumstances as greater than our strength to meet them, then it’s logical to be afraid- after all, we are going to fail! So, we lose our peace.

But if we consider our circumstances as being under the control of God, who can do anything, and are confident that he will help us, we can continue to relax and stay calm, and know we are not going to fail.

One year I sought peace from circumstances. It was my favorite time of the year (Fall). I planned a fun Halloween party, and took a trip to the mountains to enjoy the pretty trees. I also did several other things to ensure my Fall would be enjoyable. But no, it didn’t happen. I fell into a depression and despite all the fun things I had planned, I didn’t have peace or joy.

This experience helped me to learn that peace comes from within, not from good things happening. It’s a byproduct of living in the power of the Spirit, who lives within us. Peace comes to us as we rely on God controlling our circumstances and protecting us from our fears and worst-case scenarios we imagine.

Peace also comes to us as we accept the limits God places on our lives. Limits of our control, abilities, and outcomes. We quit fighting for what isn’t and learn is accept what is. We rest in his complete control and trust that he has our best interest at heart. As the verse says, “I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 31:2 NLT). When we continue to strive to serve the idols of achievement, impressing, and comfortability, we remain frustrated and dissatisfied.  

God tells us to give up trying to find peace without him. As long as we leave him out of our lives, we will be anxious. As Augustine observed, “our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Peace is a byproduct of partnering with him in living life. It’s not something we attain by molding and twisting our circumstances so we feel safe. Partnering means turning to him in prayer immediately when we lose our peace. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6,7, NLT).

Peace comes from accepting the frustrating, scary, and bad circumstances he sends us and turning to God to guide and help us through them.

May we all grow in capturing the illusive butterfly of peace. He promises that as we rely on him instead of our good circumstances, we will, at last, escape our fears and worries and find peace.

I recently read my journal from twenty years ago that was written during a difficult time at work. It described the painful consequences of going beyond my expertise to gain a promotion.

I had amassed a number of new responsibilities that would help me to get my position upgraded. The motive behind my actions was to get promoted rather than to serve. Consequently, I was supervising more and more duties I didn’t know well, which gradually made me less competent.

At this time, the department underwent a major reorganization with a new management team put in place. When my new supervisor discovered my lack of knowledge in several areas of my responsibility, she was not impressed.

After a four – month process, I was demoted and transferred to another position in a new department. I felt much fear, sadness, hurt, and humiliation during this time. I thought, If I had only stayed in the job that God had placed me in and equipped me to serve, things would be better. This wasn’t the first time that this had happened, and it wasn’t to be the last. Why do I and many others reject God’s jobs for us and seek to fashion our own careers beyond our qualifications?

Many of don’t stay where God puts us because we want more. We are not content doing what God wants us to do because we want to earn more money or increase our prestige. We rely on the praise of others and the power we gain from the move to meet our need for importance. We are not satisfied with the worth we get from being God’s children. Wealth and praise seems more real.

1 Timothy 6:9 NLT describes this process as follows:

“But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction”.

My career suffered some of this ruin and destruction when I was lured to reach for a more attractive job that was not the one God had in mind for me.

When we seek a wrong job we can be focused on using people instead of serving them. This is the opposite of what Jesus modeled as he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45).

We can chase idols that promise to meet our needs better than God. But they don’t. We become deceived into thinking that promotion, achievement, and pleasure will give us a better life than humbly following God step-by-step.

We forget that God controls promotions, and if it is a good thing for us, he will grant them. But until then, we are to “humble ourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift us up in honor” (1 Peter 5:6, NLT).

One thing that can help us to stay where God has led us to is to remember that he has planned specific tasks for each us to do for him. He says this in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ for good works, which he has created beforehand, that we should walk in them.” He doesn’t want us to do just any good deed, but the ones he has tailor-made for us to do.

It also helps us to know that we are already as important as we will ever be. No additional wealth or someone’s high opinion of us will makes us more valuable. His view of our importance is the only viewpoint that counts – and he sees us as always precious (Isaiah 43:4).

A third way to be faithful to the tasks he has called us to do is by meditating on his word. The Word is the only reliable source of the amazing truth that we are his precious children and are being used by him in his work in the world.

Let’s stay where he has placed us until he clearly leads elsewhere. We need to trust his plan that he knows perfectly how to use us and has our best interest in mind. We will one day see the beauty and wisdom of his plan. Until then, let us live by faith and stay put.

Never Give Up

One of my first experiences with perseverance was when I ran cross country in high school. The races were three miles long, usually running through golf courses and parks.

I never enjoyed running, but I did it for the glory of winning a letter. The climax to my running career occurred in my senior year in the final race of the season. I had to finish in the top seven runners from our school to earn a letter and go to the State finals. As we approached the finish line, I was in seventh place, but there was a runner closing in fast. I knew if he passed me, I wouldn’t get a letter. Although I was exhausted, I drew strength from deep within, and sped up to fool the runner into thinking I had a lot of energy left.

And it worked!

He backed off and didn’t pass me, and I finished seventh. Although it took me thirty minutes to recover from my exhaustion and walk again, I was happy because I had endured.

Like in running cross country, we all are in a race today. This race is described in the following way: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT). 

What does it mean to endure? The dictionary describes it as to remain firm under suffering without yielding; to stay in the race when it is far easier to quit.

To help us endure, God wants us to strip away our bad habits, bad thoughts and sin that weigh us down, so we can finish the race and win.

And what are we trying to win?

One thing is eternal rewards. God give us rewards for serving him in what he wants us to do, in his power, and for his glory.

A supernatural life is another incentive to stay in the race. Only by persevering can we live the powerful life God has mapped out for us, and stand against the ferocious attacks of the Evil One. “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36, NLT).

So, how do we persevere and continue to follow God’s will?

One thing we can do is to rid ourselves of our idols. They are anything or anyone we substitute for depending on God to meet that need. For example, we all need to feel important. Some us can try to feel important by seeking career success. “If I can become a manager then I will regard myself as important.” But in the process of seeking success, we can turn away from depending on God to make us important, and instead rely on the promotion. We no longer trust in God’s declaration that we are precious to him and substitute an idol to meet that need (Isaiah 43:4). Our dependence on promotion becomes a false way to feel important, and we are slowed down in the race.

Another helpful action is to rely on Jesus to strengthen us. As Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NAS). Jesus is our partner to help us endure and not give up. He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NAS). He will take the pressure off of us as we give our burdens to him in prayer.

Finally, we can hang in there and finish the race by keeping our eyes on the prize. Jesus did this by focusing on the joy awaiting him, which enabled him to “endure the cross, disregarding the shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

I endured that cross country race by keeping my eyes on the prize of getting a letter. May we all finish the race of life and not quit before we win the prize.

Who Am I?

Growing up, I had a difficult time knowing who I was. I tried to be what got me the most praise and acceptance, even if it didn’t reflect who I was. As a result, I didn’t know myself well and what was right for me. So, when I became adult, I began a search for my identity. I slowly edged away from the belief that I was who I thought others thought me to be.

Many of us spend our lives searching for who we are. Are we loved? Are we important? Are we safe?

We have a variety of ways to answer these questions. But many of them will give us the wrong answers.

Are we loved because someone treats us well? Are we important because we got promoted to a prestigious position? Are we safe because we just passed the annual physical?

We look to circumstances, ourselves and others to give us the answers we seek. But will we find truth there? What happens if someone treats us poorly? Or we don’t get the promotion? Or they find something wrong in the physical that requires surgery? Do these circumstances change who we are?

Our perceived identity will take a beating when we depend on the wrong things to tell us who we are.

A better place to find stability and encouragement is in the Bible. It is there where God tells us we are always important, loved, and accepted because he has given us a new identity if we believe in him (Isaiah 43:4). He is wildly enthusiastic about us, just the way we are!

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But do we rely on these truths?

Sadly, many of us don’t. We are suspicious of regarding ourselves  this way. It doesn’t make sense because it contradicts our trust in earning this high status. So, we keep pursing an inferior identity based on approval, achievement, and other false ways to answer the question of who we are.

We would think it’s easy to rest in our new identity as deeply loved, respected, and protected. But no. It is not easy. That’s why we are exhorted to “Be diligent to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11, NLT) that we will accept our new identity and see ourselves as God sees us.

How much achievement is enough? How much respect from others is necessary to regard ourselves as respectable. And how much control do we need to have over our circumstances to feel safe? These ways never seem to be enough.

So what must we do to cooperate with God in living in this reality? How do we allow God to change our thinking and transform our hearts?

God tells us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” He changes the way we think by replacing the lies we rely on with his truth in the Bible. We cooperate with him when we study, meditate and apply the Bible to our daily lives.

Becoming free of the lies we currently trust is difficult. These lies come from Satan, the world, and ourselves. Paul describes this battle as follows: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NAS).

One of the challenges of doing this is becoming aware of the lies we have depended on for so many years. Trusting in these lies has led us to reject the implications of being God’s children. But we can reach out to the Holy Spirit and he will help us become aware of the lies guiding our thinking and enable us to rest in our true identity (Psalm 139:23-24).

May we grow in accepting God’s viewpoint of us, which is much higher that any identity we could scratch out by our achievements, people’s approval, or positions of power. It won’t be easy. But the rewards are great.

We can at last rest in the peace of being loved by our heavenly Father. We can quit our futile efforts to earn importance in the eyes of everyone and rest in being precious in God’s eyes. And we no longer need to feel inferior, for we have been chosen by God. May we rest in these truths and cease striving.

What route have you taken through life? Is it the wide and heavily traveled one, or is it the road less traveled?

The famous poet, Robert Frost, wrote a narrative poem called, “The Road Less Traveled” in 1916. Its meaning is ambiguous and can be interpreted in different ways. Some believe it helps us think about the choices of life. Others think it is about lost opportunities.

I find the poem inspirational. It describes the way I aspire to live.

It reminds me of Jesus’ words when he said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6, NAS). This means there is only one way to heaven and it requires us to trust Jesus to get us there.

He further tells us in Matthew 7:14 NLT, “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7:14). This means that most of us are on the wide and heavily traveled highway. It is the wrong route.

As a young man I searched for a goal that would give me meaning in life. I thought the road to career success was the answer. But it wasn’t. Maybe it was marriage? But I couldn’t find the right one.

Then, I sought popularity and accomplishment. But these proved to be roads to emptiness.

Then at 26, I discovered the road less traveled. It was a very narrow way. Few people were on it or even knew it existed.

But I was desperate to find a meaningful path through life. I realized I had failed to lead a life that was good enough to qualify me for the next one. But the good news was that Jesus had qualified me for heaven when he died on the cross. All I had to do was to choose to rely on this.

I pondered the decision for months. I kept seeking more knowledge and understanding before I would take the leap of faith.  Finally, Jesus said to me one night through Mark 9:24 that I didn’t need more knowledge, but to act on what I knew and invite him into my life. He would give me enough faith for this miracle to happen.

That very night he further assured me by demonstrating the miracle of taking up residence in my best friend’s life. So, I went to my room and  invited him into my heart by praying, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.”

I knew I could be giving up a lot to take this route – things like people’s approval, living close to family, some career success, perhaps marriage, and other rewards of life. But I was encouraged by what Jesus said in Mark 10:29,30 NLT:

“I assure you that everyone who has given up house, or brothers, or sisters, or mother or father or children or property for my sake and the Good News will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and property – along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.”

I have followed Jesus for nearly fifty years. I did lose some of the blessings mentioned above. But the things given back to me outweighed the costs. And best of all,  I look forward to where this way leads. Jesus promises in 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 I chose the right road.

This season of our lives has many challenges to living peaceably. A pandemic, riots, fires, elections and lifestyle changes. We don’t always feel safe. We feel anxious, instead. Added to these uncertain times, is a host of personal challenges such as aches and pains, household projects, and work stress. When all these things are added together, they can be awesome and overwhelming.

When we attempt to resolve these difficulties, we realize that they are beyond our abilities to conquer and maintain our peace. We want to be bold and courageous, yet we feel weak and timid. Like the disciples, we may say to ourselves, “We only have five loaves and two fishes to feed 5,000”. We can’t deal with this.

But it’s a matter of perspective. As I face my To Do list today I easily think I have to conquer it alone. When I do, I feel anxious and depressed. “How can I be happy today with chronic pain? How do I get rid of it? And many other thoughts that keep my eyes off God’s perspective. But I will try again today to develop the habit  of keeping my mind on God and his help. “You will keep in perfect peace, all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3)

Follow Him Boldly and Courageously

We may think we don’t have enough faith for God to act, so we trust in our strength. But if we stop and remember Jesus’ promise, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), we realize our self-effort will not been rewarded in heaven.

The Scriptures clearly teach that we meet our challenging times with boldness and courage by relying on God to give us the strength to obey him. That’s what God told Joshua as he was preparing to conquer the Promised Land. God said, “This is my commandment – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

God doesn’t want us cowering under the anxieties of uncertain times. He wants us to face them with confidence that he is with us every step of the way as we endure our pains and fears that come from following him. He infuses us with his Spirit that will enable us to become as bold as lions.

Even so, at times we will become afraid, but we can take these fears to God for his action. “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer” (Psalm 94:19). He will also give us his wisdom to resolve the challenges as we ask him. “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God and he will give it to you” (James 1:5).

Joshua was part of a team that scouted the Promised Land in preparation for conquering it. He and Caleb kept their eyes on God and the blessings he wanted to give Israel. The other spies were fixated on the challenges and meeting them in their own strength. These other spies died without experiencing God’s blessings. But forty years later, God used Joshua and Caleb along with the next generation of Israelites, to conquer the Promised Land because they trusted in him. The others were conquered by their fears and failed to experience it.

May we boldly and courageously face our challenging times. Like Joshua and Caleb, may we learn to expect the Almighty God to help us experience the Promised Land of the abundant life as we trust and obey him. (John 10:10).

We all have the tendency to be riveted on our circumstances and how we can make them turn out the way we want them to be. The thought that Jesus could help us face and overcome the challenges often escapes us.

I do recall a few times when I was so overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of my problems that it was easy to keep my focus on Jesus’ helping me to gain the strength to function.

One of those times was a job I had in the Air Force. I needed to put in 80 hours a week to adequately meet the demands – but I could only give an average of 45. I needed God to make up the difference. Each day was so loaded with challenges I couldn’t even worry about what needed to be done the next day. The whole time I felt my back was against the wall, with God behind me propping me up.

And he did. Not only did he keep me in relative peace, but he enabled me to accomplish enough to be awarded the Commendation medal for meritorious service.

This was the first exposure I had to the value of looking to Jesus to do the impossible rather than just relying on my limited resources to meet threatening circumstances.

Look what Peter was able to do when kept his eyes on Jesus,

“Lord if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come.” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him (Matthew 14:29-31, NLT).

As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus and depended on him to do the impossible, he did. When he took his eyes off Jesus and depended on himself, he failed to overcome the challenging circumstances.

This is an illustration of the fact that life was not intended to be lived apart from him. Jesus says to us “In the world you have tribulations, but take courage I have overcome the world” (John 16:24, NLT). Because we are looking to Jesus to help us, we also can overcome the world.

But we often try to meet the challenges in our strength or depend on something else. By keeping our focus on him and his Almighty power, we gain some of his strength to not worry, be joyous, and achieve what we could not by trying to control and figure out human solutions to God-size problems.

Isaiah says about God, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3, NLT).

In my Air Force job, I chose to fix my eyes on God because to do otherwise would have paralyzed me with fear.

With Peter, he kept his eyes on Jesus briefly, and walked on water. But then he took his eyes off him and tried to do the impossible in his own strength, panicked, and began to sink.

It’s not easy thing to stay focused on Jesus’ call to do the impossible as he did with Peter to walk on water. If we get much beyond our human limits we tend to panic, as Peter did. So, how do we develop the discipline and trust to keep our eyes on Jesus and experience his peace, even as we go through the threatening circumstances that swirl around us?

Training is one way. Allowing God to take us back to the challenging circumstances over and over again until we learn. In my case, I face a battery of medical test each year to insure my cardiovascular system is still okay. This is due to major heart surgery I had seven years ago. I burn a lot of energy stressing over the test results each year so that at the end of the three or four months of testing, I am emotionally exhausted.

But God is training me to learn to trust him with my life and not good test results. He promises he will help, strengthen and uphold me through the tests. The best that tests can promise is good results, which may not happen.

Another way we can learn to rely on Jesus when faced with overwhelming circumstances is to pray for increased faith. One of my favorite verses is, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9:24, NAS). I know God works through this verse because this is what I prayed when he made me a Christian.

A third action we can take is to learn and obey the Word. Knowing the Bible is not enough. We also need to do what it says as God helps us grow in maturity. “Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong” (Hebrews 5:14, NLT).

May we learn to keep our eyes upon Jesus as we face the storms of life. May we put to death our tendency to trust good circumstances we can handle in our strength. Instead, may we look to Jesus and trust our challenges to God Almighty who promises us through him we can live in peace (Isaiah 26:3).

We all feel disappointment at times when circumstances fail to be what we want. I just received notification that a devotional I had submitted a year ago to an international magazine was rejected at the final review meeting.

I felt frustrated and some grief at coming so close to possibly ministering to millions of Christians.

I have also felt disappointed over the elimination or modification of many of my daily activities because of the pandemic. I feel sad that my days have lost some of their color and joy and have been replaced by some dullness and loneliness.

The more important the thing, the more disappointed we are when we don’t get it. We often feel sad when this happens.

Part of the reason we get disappointed is because we are limited in grasping what is best for us. God tells us, ‘“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah (55:8-9, NAS). His plan for us is better than the expectations and hopes we have for ourselves.

Although my devotional was rejected for publication, it was still a work of God. Sure, it will not be encouraging any of the 2 million readers of the magazine, but in God’s eyes the writing of the devotional under his guidance was the work of God. I had no control over whether or not the devotional was published. But I did have control over doing my best and allowing God to guide me in writing it. And that is what counts to God. So, I have no grounds to be overly disheartened.

So how do we respond to our disappointments that we experience every day? Should we aim low so we won’t be discouraged? Must we always expect the worst so we won’t be hurt if it turns less than we wanted?

No.

God want us to trust him in our disappointments. “Trust in him at all times” (Psalm 62:8, NIV). He wants us to know he controls these disappointments and will use them for his good purposes. We need to be realistic in our expectations and not demand our wishes instead of his perfect will.

It helps me to accept my disappointments to remember that the One who controls my circumstances loves me and respects me greatly. It also helps to remember that our identity is not tied to the ups and downs of circumstances. He says to us, “I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you” Isaiah 43:4, NLT). Therefore, our disappointments don’t diminish us in any way with God.

We may never understand what God had in mind when he bought us the disappointing circumstances. But we are to trust in his goodness anyway as Job did, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15, NAS).

Disappointments are painful. They sometimes block our quest to reach a goal, which angers us. But may we embrace, learn, and endure them and keep doing what is right.

May we learn that our disappointments are merely circumstances that are different from what we wanted and are not bad. May we practice giving God thanks even in our disappointments for he says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NLT)

We can learn much from the past. Or, we can ignore it and risk committing the same mistakes over and over again.

In some cases, I have learned from my prior mistakes. One example was when I was searching for a wife. In the early days of my search, I tried to pretend I was an exciting, adventurous, and fun-loving man. The only problem was I was actually a serous-minded and slightly introverted person.

However, a pretty sorority girl thought I was what I pretended to be. I think I could have married her if I had kept up the charade. But I knew I couldn’t. So, I ran away.

I resolved I would never do that again. I would learn from my past – and I did. In my next serious relationship several years later, I was authentic – maybe too authentic. I freely shared my faults and made no attempt to go out of my way to impress her. I even took her ice skating on our first date, which I had never learned how to do. Boy, was she impressed! She figured I was genuine if I was willing to demonstrate such weakness. She eventually became my wife.

One reason we don’t learn from our foolish mistakes is because of the human tendency to cling to our foolishness. “You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle” (Proverbs 27:22, NLT). We have an innate tendency to stubbornly repeat our mistakes. It hurts our pride to admit we are wrong, so we don’t. We can become like “an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction (Ecclesiastes 4:13, NAS).

Another reason we don’t learn from the past is we don’t remember it. Recently I was reviewing my journal from ten years ago. To my surprise I was dealing with similar issues then as I am today. First, I was surprised life hadn’t changed that much. But I also gained perspective about resolving my challenges today through reviewing what worked from the past. Journaling our thoughts, feelings and behaviors and then reflecting on them, can help us correct our mistakes and not repeat them. “I considered my ways and turned my feet to your direction” (Psalm 119:59, NLT).

A third reason we don’t learn is we don’t want to change. We don’t want to grow but feel comfortable. But the irony is when we choose to follow Jesus, he will change us. Sure it’s painful. But God promises us that “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it,  afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11, NAS). But are we willing to pay the price for peace?

One way we can learn from the past is from the Bible. God says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4, NLT). Many teachings and examples of wise and foolish behavior are given to us in the Scriptures.

We can also learn from the experiences of others, especially mature Christians who have grappled with similar challenges.

Most of all we can ask God to give us an open and teachable heart. We need God’s help to soften our hearts to changes he wants to make. He calls to us when he says “Today when you hear my voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled” (Hebrews 13:5, NLT). May we learn from the past so our lives will grow and better reflect the love, joy, and peace he wants to give us.