“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. On most days, our thoughts move from one to the other many times. Indeed, one of the marvels of the human mind is that we’re able not only to enjoy the present but also to remember the past and anticipate the future.
But concerning the past and the future, there is an important choice to be made: will our basic outlook in life be backward or will it be forward? As great as the gift of memory can be, the past should not be the main focus of our minds. Since life moves only in one direction, forward, it is wise to make that the primary direction of our character. We need to have made up our minds that hope will be our basic, day-in-and-day-out orientation. And we need to be aware that that choice will often be difficult to make.
Paul wrote about forgetting the things which are behind and reaching forward to the things which are ahead. Sir William Osler echoed that sentiment when he gave this advice: “Shut out all of your past except that which will help you weather your tomorrows.” What we’ve already experienced may have been painful or pleasant, but it must not be allowed to distract us from what’s ahead. “Rest your hope fully,” Peter said, “upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Abraham is the great biblical example of a forward-looking person. During the long years of his pilgrimage in Canaan, there would have been many moments when his mind drifted back to his home in Ur, and those memories would not have been altogether bad. Yet he chose the future as his basic outlook, the decisive direction of his character: “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
We ought to be warned by the story of Lot’s wife that there are times when it is dangerous to look back (Genesis 19:23–26). And even when our memories are wholesome and helpful, it is wise to avoid getting stuck in the past. If even one day remains to us in this world, that means that there’s good work yet to do — and the best is yet to come.
“Look up and not down; look forward and not back; look out and not in — and lend a hand” (Edward Everett Hale).