One of my favorite songs of all times is God’s Been Good, but there’s one phrase in the chorus that always gives me pause. The line goes, “Though I’ve had my share of hard times, I wouldn’t change them if I could.” That’s quite a bold statement and one I’m not sure I’m able to declare honestly. When I think back on my past mistakes, I long to go back and set things right, to erase the hurt caused by those mistakes.
I’m reminded of The Flash, a show I’m watching on Netflix. Normally, I’m not much of a comic book or superhero fan, but something about this show intrigues me. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will provide you with an overview. Barry Allen is a young man who has experienced much heartache in his life and now has the opportunity to show the world he has not let his past define him or make him into something evil. Instead, he spends his days fighting crime and helping others who feel lost and alone.
One day, however, after facing another tragic loss, Barry decides he’s tired of being the victim and takes matters into his own hands by going back in time and preventing some of his life’s greatest heartaches. For a while, Barry is happy with the changes in the new timeline he has created, but soon he realizes those changes came at a high cost. He thought that undoing the wrongs that had been done to him would fix his life, but he never imagined what he would lose in the process. After trying to repair the timeline, a wise mentor reminds Barry they aren't God and teaches him that every decision and every change becomes a part of a new world, and things can never be the same.
I get where Barry was coming from. Sometimes, I think of how awesome it would be to go back in time and erase my past mistakes and the heartaches I’ve experienced. But if I did that, things would never be the same. I wouldn’t be me. While some things may be better, others could be worse. There’s no telling what would be affected by righting my wrongs or undoing past hardships. And honestly, I’m not willing to risk it, even if it were possible. I’d hate to wake up in a life where I had my health but not my husband or where I was a famous, best-selling author but had rejected Christ.
The fact is, this life is mine—both the good and the bad. And instead of trying to erase my past, I need to embrace it because it has molded me into who I am today—a person with a sincere desire to serve God and to trust Him for my every need. I wouldn’t be who I am today had it not been for the things of my past. Yes, some events were painful, but, as the song says, “Through it all, God’s been good.”
Today, perhaps you are plagued by the sins of your past or burdened by tragedies faced in your earlier life. No matter how horrible those things were, please don’t try to erase them. Embrace them instead. Notice I said embrace them not dwell on them. There is a difference. Dwelling on them leads to self-pity and discouragement whereas embracing them leads to growth and acceptance of who you are and how you arrived at your current state.
So embrace those past experiences. Count them as lessons learned and steppingstones to get you to where you are today. As a former pastor once said, “God can take a crooked stick and draw a straight line.” Likewise, God can take a painful and shameful past and use it to shape you into something beautiful. Won’t you allow him to show you how?