“Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK LONGINGLY AT ANYTHING IN THE PAST? Do you ever wish you had back anything you gave up for the Lord? If you could go back in time, would you go back?
Regret. Leaving Sodom was the right thing to do. It was a sacrifice made for the Lord. We don’t know much about what Lot’s thoughts were, but the fact that his wife “looked back” (Genesis 19:26) seems to suggest some regret on her part, regret that the Lord’s requirement had cost her something she didn’t want to give up. Regret in itself is not wrong, but if regret means that we begrudge not having what we once had, then that is not good.
Resentment. Worse than wrongful regret would be resentment that something we once had in the past has been taken away from us. When we think about the past, we may almost be filled with a bitterness or an anger that what was “ours” was unfairly removed from our possession. We are creatures who are prone to possessiveness and the protection of our “rights,” and our memories often tempt us to believe we have been deprived.
Reconsideration. Worst of all, of course, we sometimes even reconsider whether we made the right choice when we left behind something that was hard to give up. The tempting thought may occur to us to try to go back to our previous situation and resume the life we had back then. If it was Sodom we left, we certainly ought not to go back, but even if it was something good we gave up for the Lord, going back is rarely, if ever, the answer.
Memory is a two-edged sword, is it not? With it we may remember (helpfully) things that can energize us, but with it we may also remember (hurtfully) things that can hold us back. For fallen creatures such as we, there is no such thing as no regrets, but we need to be very careful. As someone has said, “The past is valuable as a guidepost, but dangerous if used as a hitching post.” When we remember the past, as we certainly will, our effort must be to remember it with such an attitude that we are helped in the here and now. God intends for our lives to go forward — and when we’re tempted to go backward, we need to remember Lot’s wife.
There was — and O! how many sorrows crowd
Into these two brief words!
(Sir Walter Scott)