I remember my son in his first season of track at about age 7. I learned that with little kids, it is common for them to glance back frequently if they are ahead in a race. Parents constantly admonish the little sprinters to keep their eyes on the finish line: “Don't look back!” Looking back to see how far ahead they are only confuses them and slows them down.
In the same way, focusing on the past can slow us down in our progress toward growth in Christ. Past people and past circumstances can further confuse the pressing issues of today. Can we learn from the past? Yes. Should we live in denial of the past? No. If healing is necessary and help is available, take advantage of it. Have as your goal a forward-looking focus. Let go of those things that confuse and slow your progress. Then, press on with God's help and a mind and heart fixed on Jesus. That’s how growth happens. It’s a spiritual race, as that to which Paul and the writer to the Hebrews so aptly compared our spiritual lives (Hebrews 12:1,2; 1 Corinthians 9:26).
Be careful how you run. Pascal wrote, “We run carelessly to the precipice after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it.” Do you ever watch TV and want to jump up and down screaming, “Can't they see what they're doing is wrong and someday they'll pay for it?!” It's like the student at the college I attended who walked so fast across campus that he was constantly slamming into doors, into people, and anything else that got in his way. Before you could say, “Watch out!” he would do something like step into the path of a high-powered sprinkler and get blasted right in the face! Besides the fact that he wasn't careful in his stride, he was blind.
No one would choose to be blind, at least not physically. Well, spiritual blindness has much more dreadful and eternal consequences, yet there's no shortage of those opting for it. Part of our focus in running the race effectively is to pray that we see ahead, asking God to help us with the right pace and opening our eyes to potential obstacles. Pray that “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) might shine in our hearts. But pray also that those who suffer from spiritual blindness might have their eyes opened to the truth before they are unable to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
So, you have your eyesight, you’re focused ahead, but the road gets bumpy. What about the potholes? We have a choice as to how we respond to tough times. As the cliché goes, “Tough times can make us bitter or better.” Some things, like precious metals, are refined by fire. Others are destroyed. It all depends upon your perspective, your attitude, and your willingness to learn and grow.
Frederick Temple wrote:
Every trial that we pass through is capable of being the seed of a noble character. Every temptation that we meet in the path of duty is another chance of filling our souls with the power of Heaven.
The Christian life is not a cakewalk. It is a race that requires (and produces) endurance. Those who have professed faith in Christ, thinking that everything would then be easy, have been sorely disappointed. We shouldn't go looking for trials. However, they tend to find us anyway. When they do, know that they can produce in you something nothing else can—endurance. Trials don’t make us happy, but James says we can choose to “consider” them “joy” (James 1:2). Endurance ultimately brings joy.
“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” —Hebrews 12:1-2