Keep Looking Forward
THE careful driver of an automobile keeps glancing up at his rearview mirror. Especially does he do so when he wants to change from one lane to another, turn off on a side road or come to a stop. But does he fix his attention on that rearview mirror? Not at all! His eyes, his attention, are fixed primarily on the road ahead.
The pattern set by the careful automobile driver is one that all do well to follow. Particularly do we do well to keep this counsel in mind when we find ourselves wanting to dwell on the negative things of the past. We can profit from looking back from time to time. But we should not dwell on these things so as to let them overshadow what lies ahead.
For example, you may have lost your home because of some disaster, such as a fire, flood or tornado. Or you may have lost all your savings because of some financial failure, or perhaps a loved one has died suddenly. There is no profit, but only sadness, in dwelling on these misfortunes. Even if you can see now how a calamity could have been avoided, there is no reason for you to torment yourself by dwelling on it, as though you could atone for your mistake by making yourself miserable. If possible, benefit from the past bad experiences. Let them serve to give you better judgment, to exercise better care. But then enjoy what present blessings are yours.
The Hebrew Scriptures tell of persons who made the mistake of dwelling on past calamities. For example, some Jews who returned from Babylonian exile regularly observed certain self-imposed fasts, apparently mourning over the calamities they and their land had suffered at the hands of the Babylonians. But Jehovah God, by his prophet Zechariah, reproved these men for this. They were told to look ahead to the joys and prosperity that were due to come, when “the public squares of the city themselves will be filled with boys and girls playing in her public squares.”—Zech. 7:1–8:15.
There may also be this unwholesome tendency to look backward instead of forward when someone has wronged us, perhaps deeply wounded us in some way. Is it wise to keep looking back to this incident and make ourselves miserable because of it? By no means! Rather, the kind and wise thing to do is to forgive and forget. Look forward to better relations with that one. You will feel the better for it, and the other person, too, will be benefited.
Jehovah God certainly has set a fine example in this connection. The Bible tells us that “as far off as the sunrise is from the sunset, so far off from us he has put our transgressions.” He does not keep looking back at these, neither should we keep looking back at the trespasses of others against us.—Ps. 103:12; Eph. 4:32.
The counsel to keep looking forward might be said to have particular application to all those who have started out to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. As Jesus warned: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” Anyone looking longingly behind at the things he gave up to be a follower of Jesus Christ would indicate that he regrets having become Christ’s follower. Surely no such one would be fit material for the kingdom of God.—Luke 9:62.
The apostle Paul set us a fine example in looking forward. After telling about his privileges and credentials as a part of the Jewish system of things, he goes on to say: “Why, for that matter, I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse . . . Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal,” the goal ahead.—Phil. 3:8, 13, 14.
This does not mean we should discount the blessing of memories. No doubt the apostle Paul, while spending days, months and years in prison in Rome, looked back with pleasure on the many joyful and fruitful experiences he had in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom to the people of the nations. (2 Tim. 4:7) And so all those who have been serving God for a number of years can look back with joy on the way that God has led them. But at the same time they appreciate that the most blessed times are yet ahead, when God’s will is to be done on earth as in heaven and when there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying nor pain.—Matt. 6:10; Rev. 21:4.
While Christians have always had reason to look forward, today there is more reason than ever; in fact, there is an urgency about it. After telling his disciples of the calamity to come upon Jerusalem in the first century, Jesus said: “Let the man on the housetop not come down to take the goods out of his house; and let the man in the field not return to the house to pick up his outer garment.” (Matt. 24:17, 18) Is it not even more urgent today in the “last days” of the present system of things? Of similar import is the warning Jesus gave to “remember the wife of Lot.” She had been warned not to look backward, but she failed to heed that warning and it cost her her life. She no doubt looked back with longing. Do not make her mistake!—Luke 17:32.
Be wise, heed the counsel of God’s Word, keep looking forward. Forget the things behind, be they misfortunes, mistakes, injuries or material things above what is necessary. While enjoying present blessings, look hopefully forward to the triumph of righteousness, when “the former things will not be called to mind.”—Isa. 65:17.