Forgetting The Past

Joseph’s story in Genesis, familiar to many, intends to give us hope when life overwhelms us. At 17 years old, Joseph was sold by his brothers, carried off to Egypt by slave traders, falsely accused by the wife of his master, thrown into prison, and then forgotten for two years by a fellow prisoner he had helped. When Joseph was thirty years old, he was released from his dungeon and elevated to second-in-command in Egypt. Pharaoh then gave him a wife who bore him two sons. When his first son was born, Joseph named him Manasseh, saying, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” Genesis 41:51.

Really? Joseph forgot thirteen tragic years? He forgot his eleven brothers? I’m skeptical, are you?

The apostle Paul expresses a similar sentiment. He writes, “One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize, which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” Philippians 3:13-15

Did Paul forget that he’d been an enemy of God, a persecutor of Christians, an approving eyewitness at the stoning of Stephen?

While Joseph’s bad memories came from painful experiences that happened to him, Paul’s bad memories came from the pain he caused others. Either way, they chose to forget the past.

I looked up the definition of forget in The American Heritage Desk Dictionary, 2013. Surprisingly I found two definitions—the second one relevant to the experiences of Paul and Joseph.
• 1) To be unable to remember (something)
• 2) To treat with inattention; neglect, as in forget one’s family

Neither Paul nor Joseph was struck with amnesia. They chose not to dwell on memories that would hold them unproductive for the future. God used Joseph’s trials to save the nation of Israel. Paul re-framed his past as a positive, telling his story over and over, so that others would know that God could forgive them also.

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man… I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” 1 Timothy 1:13,16.

Paul’s new goal kept him moving forward, forgetting his past. Paul further explains that all who are mature should have a similar attitude.

Do you have painful experiences in your past? Me too. We can dwell on them and give them undue attention, or we can set them in a new context that will make us more useable for God’s purposes. Paul tells us that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” 2 Corinthians 1:4.

Joseph and Paul give us hope that God can work all things for our good and for His glory.

Memorizing Scripture has helped me reframe my past hurts. How about you?

7 comments to Forgetting The Past

  • JaneMBScott

    Thanks for this reminder, Janet. To let go past hurts, how easy it is to awake in the night and go over some unprofitable scene, but with memorized Scriptures in your heart it is possible to, “meditate on His Law day and night.”

  • Ginger

    Thanks for this post Janet! I love to assure people that there is “purpose” in every thing. Yes! Even those times when we could hardly take the next step forward. But to trust in God’s promises, to hold on to every word, to have our Blessed Hope in Jesus is our testimony. Satan may have meant it for evil, BUT God meant it for good. Praise Him!

  • Holly Steadman

    Sitting here. Tears rolling down my face.
    Janet, you wrote: “While Joseph’s bad memories came from painful experiences that happened to him, Paul’s bad memories came from the pain he caused others. Either way, they chose to forget the past.”
    My painful realities meet up with both of those.
    And in the onslaught of facing reality–Scripture memory has, literally, been the only sufficient Equipment to wage an effective and God-honoring battle. Sometimes the battle still rages. And sometimes I would shout on the rooftop that, “though [I] live in the world, [I] do not wage war as the world does. The weapons [I] fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have Divine Power to demolish strongholds.”
    How great and awesome is the Lord of Hosts.
    How intimately-intricately-involved is the Breath of His Word in the memory work.
    He has saved my soul. He has rescued and saved my heart and mind.
    Thank you for this post. I am going to print it and tuck it in the midst of my Bible Memory Card file. It is so helpful and has caused me to realize anew that though I have had my own style of blasphemy (as we all do).. “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example.”
    Once foolish. Disobedient. Deceived. Enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. Hating and hated. But, the kindness and love of God appeared. And saved because of His mercy. Through the washing of rebirth and renewal. How?–“by the Holy Spirit.”
    And, the Holy Spirit poured. How?–“Generously.”
    I will never forget THIS reality: JESUS SAVES!!!
    1 Corinthians 10:3-5; Titus 3:3-7

  • Vickie

    Janet, I’ve been enjoying Rend Collective music in my morning walk/runs. There is a lyric “We will not bow to sin or to shame, we are defiant in His Name.” Romans 8 was my first chapter to memorize and I recite it nearly every day to quiet the condemning accusations of Satan. I never realized that to live in the shame of condemnation is to bow to it and in that “posture” we are not in a position to live in our victory in Christ. We can use the Word we’ve memorized to speak to what is in our past to remind us that we are not what we used to be, praise God!

  • Chérie

    —from Silencing the Accuser by Sandie Freed—
    To win the battle of the mind, we must deal with our will and emotions. 
    The heart and mind are connected. Whatever is in your mind and heart, your MOUTH will confess. Since life and death are in the power of the tongue, it is clear that we must protect what is sown into our hearts and minds. LET ME BE BLUNT: If satan has your heart, then he will also possess your mind….
    satan desires both the heart and the mind of Gods children. Deuteronomy 30:14 says God’s Word is “very near you, in your mouth, and in your mind, and in your heart, so that you can do it” (AMP) Notice the four words. MOUTH, MIND, HEART, DO.
    The Hebrew word for “do” is Asah, and in its broadest sense, it means to “accomplish—to advance”. In order to accomplish all that God desires for us, we must believe God’s Word in our hearts and minds.

    note: (from Moi) 🙂
    When we speak Gods Word out of our mouth, we shut the mouth of the enemy. Don’t know about y’all, but can’t think of anyone I’d rather SHUT THE HECK UP?
    Romans 8 was the 7th chapter I memorized. I agree with Vickie. It’s power is palpable. 
    I face harsh circumstances daily with an adopted child that was drug-exposed. I’ve taken on James 1:27, so it should be easy, right? NOT! The truth is I sometimes (many times) don’t want to get out of bed and face it all again. (Prayer appreciated)
    I have to believe that God will redeem this trying time and that my adopted son (he is 9 1/2) and all his issues will be turned into something that will glorify God, and that my older son we adopted who was not drug-exposed, and gets ignored a lot because of his little brothers issues, will—also, be used of God even after having to grow up with a little brother with too many issues to count.

    The accuser tells me, “you and your husband are so stupid. Your desire to do something for humanity… HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE? You don’t have what it takes to do this. You are a scrawny, unorganized, inefficient, pathetic wimp with health problems. There was a reason you couldn’t have biological children, and you should have just stayed childless. You could be having a ball right now, and your older son would be taking on the WORLD, but instead you are all a prisoner in your home with a stinking kid that has to go to umpteen therapies and you can’t even go to the grocery store without a fiasco of some sort. Obviously no one cares…. they have their own lives, they do not want to help. You screwed up your life is all,…. have fun with that….”

    Psalm 103 and 121 have been very powerful for me in this area. 
    …”WHO forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…
    WHO redeems your life from the pit and CROWNS you with LOVE and COMPASSION…”

    …My help comes from THE LORD; the MAKER of heaven and earth. 

    Mouth, Mind, Heart, Do. 

  • Holly Steadman

    You have a sister in Detroit praying for you. And specifically today, “that our God may count you (and your husband) worthy of His calling, AND THAT BY HIS POWER HE MAY FULFILL EVERY GOOD PURPOSE OF YOURS AND EVERY ACT PROMPTED BY YOUR FAITH. [I] pray this so that the Name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, ACCORDING TO THE GRACE (lavishly poured) of our God and The Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12