Lately I find myself a bit overwhelmed by a myriad of thoughts God has placed on my heart and mind about several different things. Most confusing are the ones which revisit places and situations that bring back shame and pain, and which I thought had been healed some time ago. I know I repented of them, and God has forgiven them. So why are they coming to the surface again? It forces me to ask God what He’s trying to show me by recalling those old situations, addictions, and sins.
If and when you decide to completely surrender yourself to God’s will and control, life will become uncomfortable. Especially when you think something in your life has been conquered and resolved, only to have it surface again when you’re least expecting it. You can find yourself thinking, “God, didn’t I already surrender that, and You forgave it? Why bring it up again”? You begin to wonder if you can ever finally be rid of that stronghold, that addiction, that sin?
Sometimes it’s like a rotten tooth (I know a few things about those). The dentist must remove all the dead and decayed parts of the tooth before it can be repaired. It may require a root canal, a crown, or it may simply need to be extracted. Sometimes even though it may be repaired it becomes decayed again and needs to be addressed once more. Repeat dentistry is no fun, but necessary to preserve your teeth.
God’s process can be like that. You may have surrendered that particular area of your life to Him and asked Him to heal you. He does just that; it may take time, and sometimes He does it in stages because we haven’t completely surrendered it (even though we might think we did). I think it might have been C.S Lewis who used the illustration of an ever-brighter light being shined on us. In the beginning we ask God to clean us up, and everything looks nice and clean. But then He turns the light a little brighter, and we see there are still many places that are stained. So once again we ask Him to clean us up, and once again we appear to be white and clean. The process continues throughout our lives, because only when we leave this life and enter His presence will we finally be completely, perfectly clean.
There are at least two things I think we need to remember when you find yourself having to revisit old pain and shame. First of all, it may not be God at all bringing those back around. We have an ancient and powerful enemy, Satan, who will use those old hurts to try and convince us we haven’t been forgiven, we haven’t been healed, and we don’t deserve God’s love, much less His forgiveness and healing. Satan loves to pick at old scars, try to open old wounds, and eat away at our hope and peace, because if he can insert himself between us and God, he wins. You don’t have to let him win. Remember that God has forgiven AND forgotten those past sins, and so can you. You don’t live there any more.
But sometimes God will bring things to our remembrance in order to show us something we need to know. Perhaps that old issue might not be as “dead” and buried as we think. Maybe there’s something you’re facing now that by remembering where you were and where God has brought you will help you overcome it as well. Or possibly there’s someone who faces the same struggle and challenge that you have overcome, and you can help them to overcome their struggle as well.
The best approach when you face old demons and are confused as to why is to spend time in prayer and quiet meditation with God. Be still and listen to what He’s trying to tell you (He doesn’t always choose to speak out loud). Ask, “is this from You, or is it from somewhere or someone else”? God is faithful in revealing His plans and purposes at work in us, if we are only patient enough to wait on His timing. If you find yourself under attack, remember God’s Spirit is always with those who are His. And if nothing else, know that growth can only come through struggle. Muscles only grow from resistance. It’s helpful to have God’s word at your recall when troubles arise. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”. (Romans 8:28) “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”. (Jeremiah 31:34)
We can rest in the peace of the knowledge that God will not allow us to be overtaken by those things with which we struggle. If we humble ourselves, trust in Him, and keep ourselves submitted to His will, even our struggles will result in blessings to us. Rejoice that God has counted you worthy of the struggle because He is working to grow and perfect you.