What’s the Big Deal about Dwelling on the Past?


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” — Isaiah 43:18,19a (NIV)

A young married woman unloaded her marriage frustrations on a radio call-in show. Her husband had forgotten what the word romance meant. He never thought to bring her a sweet card or to plan a date. He didn’t thank her or even notice her hard work, like laundry and keeping the house clean, along with working full-time.

I suspected her thoughts were leading her to a dangerous place. Sure enough, the young wife confirmed this with her next statement: After two years of marriage, she wondered if she’d made the right decision about this marriage. Maybe she should have married the guy she dated right after college, the one she regretted letting slip away from her.

Her fantasies of what might have been were leading her to a dangerous place of dwelling on the past. Thoughts of the past, or as today’s Scripture puts it, “former things,” can bombard our marriage mindset in damaging ways. See if any of these thoughts ring a bell:

  • I wonder if I made the right decision about my marriage?
  • I wish my husband were romantic (attentive or understanding) the way he was when we were dating.
  • What happened to the great listener I used to have in my husband? Now all he wants to do is play sports or watch TV.
  • Even though it was years ago, I just can’t forgive the way he hurt my feelings.
  • This isn’t what I imagined marriage would be. What happened to all our dreams?

How can dwelling on the past damage our marriage? When we dwell on the past, we’re robbed of the treasures of the present. We don’t see the gifts God’s given us right now in our husbands and marriage. Maybe he doesn’t bring you flowers anymore, but he works hard every day to provide. He doesn’t thank you for the clean laundry because he’s busy with a house project he hopes will make you smile. He knows he made mistakes in the past, but he’s trying hard to change.

The young wife on the radio found the world’s answer to her marital frustrations. The radio hostess agreed that this husband was clueless and this young wife should question staying in this marriage.

I wanted to scream, Stop right there! You’re going down a dangerous path! Maybe he wasn’t a good husband. But I suspect he was just a human husband, one with flaws and shortcomings. Just like the husband had plenty to learn about marriage, so did this young wife.

God has a better answer for what to do when we find ourselves dwelling on the past in a detrimental way. He says, “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19) In other words, God asks us to redirect our focus to the good things He can and will do in our marriages. As we continue in Isaiah we come to a question we need to ask ourselves, “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (43:19).

God’s is asking, Do you see the good things I’m doing right now… in your life or marriage? Pay attention or you’re going to miss out!

To redirect our focus on the new things God is doing in our marriages, we can pray about our marriage mindset, asking God to help us see the blessings, not the drawbacks. We can choose to think about how our marriage has gotten better, and look forward to the future we have together.

Reading this devotion may have triggered thoughts of some unresolved issues in your marriage. This isn’t meant to minimize the bigger issues you might be wrestling with in your marriage. These issues may need to be resolved before you can move forward. Pray about it individually and as a couple, talk with your spouse, and seek godly counsel. These steps might be necessary before you can see God “making a way in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

Dear Lord, You make all things new. Will You give me new eyes to see the good things I sometimes miss? Help me not to dwell on the past but to focus on the present and future. You are making a way, Lord, and I trust You with my heart, my husband and my marriage. Help us deal with any issues that are damaging our relationship, so we can appreciate the new things You’re doing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

by Melanie Chitwood

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