Why Christians Should Avoid Mourning the Past Constantly
Sermonette, Eric V. Snow UCG—Ann Arbor, Michigan August 6, 2005
Queen Victoria, the monarch who had the longest reign in British history, 63 years (1837-1901), had married the German aristocrat, Albert, the son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in 1840. Unlike surely most royal marriages in history, she fell passionately in love with him during courtship. They went on to have nine children together. (By the time of her death, she had 37 great-grand children alive). This passion she kept for her entire life, even after he died at age 42 from typhoid fever and left her a widow at the relatively young age of 42 in 1861.
She was so devastated by his death she plainly never got over it emotionally. She dressed in mourning for years afterwards. She didn’t want to accept his absence. So she left his rooms totally unchanged for forty years afterwards as if he would walk in at any time. His clothes were laid out with a fresh towel and warm water each evening. She still had his coats and pants brushed down and pressed, although they were just put back into the closets they had just come out of. She had his portrait placed strategically over her bed on the wall near where he would lie with her if he were still alive. She would fall asleep holding his nightshirt. On a table nearby, a cast of his hand would sit so she could touch it at any time. She was also determined to implement whatever he had wanted after he died: “I am anxious to repeat . . . that my firm resolve, my irrevocable decision, [is] that his wishes—his plans—about everything, his views about everything are to be my law. And no human power will make me swerve from what he decided and wished!” (As in Massie, Dreadnought, p. 13). Her grief was so all-consuming that she didn’t appear in public doing her ceremonial duties as queen for like 10 or 12 years afterwards. (Fearing republicanism, Gladstone’s push to get her to do so in 1871 was resisted by her).
Victoria obviously was an extreme case in mourning over her husband’s death to such an extreme that it seriously interfered with her duties as queen for years. But could we be making similar mistakes in other ways in our lives?
Do we constantly or frequently mourn the past? That is, do we think constantly about how things used to be better in the past in our lives? Or, perhaps, we think about how things could have been better then or would be better today had we done such-and-so then instead?
Since things keep changing in this life, we have to be willing to face and adapt to events in our lives. We also have to avoid constantly being depressed about bad decisions we have made in past years. The same goes for thinking constantly about awful events or trials that hit our lives that were beyond our control. Fundamentally, God wants us to be meditating on our spiritual futures in His kingdom rather than on what went wrong years ago that can’t be changed now.
S.P.S. We as Christians have to avoid excessively dwelling emotionally on past failures, bad events, and sinful decisions in our physical and spiritual lives.
Notice Paul’s focus on his spiritual future, not on what achievements or status he had had in the past. During our random mental meditations during the day, what do we focus on? When we don’t have to mentally concentrate on the job or ask at hand, what do we think about? Do we think a lot about what went wrong years ago in our lives? It could be something totally beyond our control, as happened to Queen Victoria, in which an infectious disease sudden killed her middle-aged husband. Think of those who have had the emotional heartbreak of burying their son or daughter. It could be something that was largely under our control, like what career, job, or education we should gotten instead earlier in life. It may be something that was partially controllable, such as the events that led up to a divorce. (For their children, about as stoppable as an earthquake, however).
Once a situation has been analyzed enough times, do we need to keep bringing it up mentally? Does reliving the past really fix it? Constantly mentally thinking about ways we wasted a lot of money or married the wrong person, to name two examples, doesn’t change the past. Instead, the goal is to learn what’s necessary be in the right place in the future, in God’s kingdom.
Opposite error, of dwelling on good, nostalgic things of past also exists. Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Glory Days,” about high school days considered years later when talks to people who he knew back then. Baseball pitcher kept talking about then, or attractive girl, since married, made a mother, and divorced, thinking about years earlier.
I Cor. 15:9
Paul here plainly admitted his past sin, but he obviously didn’t let it consume him. It is possible to overdo guilt in our spiritual lives, to focus on what we did wrong even more than God would. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore our past sins. But if we aren’t presently committing that sin or a variation on it, should we keep thinking about our guilt from it? If the sin continues, are we at least making some process in controlling it?
Shouldn’t we have joy in our salvation also? We have to be wary of letting selective perception cause us to focus only on the problems in our spiritual lives, instead of the good things we get from God also.
We commit this error if we meditate too much on what we gave up to become a true Christian. Example of man unhappy over giving up a woman he met in the world not long before coming into the church: He rued that mistake (?) years later. Could also involve a career that had to be ditched, or someone who got divorced because his or her mate couldn’t accept living with someone who practices the special doctrines of the Bible we know, or even being a Christian in general. Jane Fonda’s third husband, Ted Turner, dumped her basically over her becoming a (traditional) Christian.
Conclusion: We need to put our emotional affections and mental energy much more towards our future in God’s kingdom rather than dwelling on bad decisions, uncontrollable events, or major sins in our pasts. Our random meditations during the day should focus mainly on what we can get right, whether it be in this life or the next, not so much on the past. Especially when the events were beyond our control, living in the past merely continues the same depressed state of mind. So let’s aim to live mentally in our spiritual futures more than in our physical pasts.