One the most tragic characters in fiction would have to be Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens, Great Expectations. After being jilted just hours before her wedding, Miss Havisham was trapped in the moment of her betrayal. Still wearing her wedding dress, with one shoe on, her accessories lying on her dressing table; she is a picture of someone who is unable to move forward.
It’s easy to look at Miss Havisham and see the tragedy and futility of her existence, and yet we too can find ourselves trapped in our past. It may be a choice we made, a time when we were wronged, a misstep or failure which we are still haunted by.
Yet, what we find in Scripture is this invitation to step into the future, and to allow God to do a new thing in and through us. In Isaiah 43, as Israel finds itself under the bondage of the Babylonians they are reminded of how God rescued them from the bondage of the Egyptians so many years before; and to find confidence in remembering who God is and what he can do. Yet for them to be able to do this, they are given a simple instruction, in Isaiah 43: 18, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”
For Israel or any of us to step into the future, we cannot live in the past. They are told to forget the former things and not live in the past (whatever that may be), so that they can be looking forward (with hope) to the future God has in store for them. The future where God will do a new thing. In other words, whilst God remains the same, He is not constrained by the ways He has acted in the past.
As we are reminded in Isaiah, we have a choice, to either look forward with God or look to our past. We cannot do both.
Don’t dwell in the past of who you were or the way things used to be, but remember who god is and His plans for you. He has a call on your life, and plans for you (Jeremiah 29: 11), which simply requires you to step forward with Him and expect that God can do a new thing in and through you.