Happy New Year! If you are a woman who is healing from abuse (or in abuse), the last few weeks of holidays have likely been especially trying. People who choose to abuse especially like to ruin the holidays for those around them. They do everything they can to be the center of attention and stir up chaos, rather than think of others or spread goodwill and peace. You are probably arriving in this new year a bit exhausted and ready for some refreshment.
Now, at the start of a new year, is a perfect time to put the past behind and look forward to God’s promises. He is who He says He is. He will do what He said He will do. While we all have painful things in our past, we must not let our past define our future. In Psalm 23, David shares God’s heart that He will go with us through the valley of the shadow of death – and on the other side of that valley, God’s goodness and mercy will pursue us all the days of our lives. Everyone has valleys of loss – loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of a dream, loss of a marriage, loss of health. But, of course, we are to go through the valley, not camp there, wallow there, or make a permanent home there.
The journey for a woman escaping from abuse to freedom is much like the journey of the children of Israel in their escape from Pharaoh to the Promised Land. God didn’t change Pharaoh’s evil heart. But He performed miracles, sent Moses to guide them out of bondage, gave them everything they needed in the desert, and promised to fight the giants in the land of peace and rest He had prepared for them. But instead of looking forward to God’s promises and remembering all He had done, they looked back on all trauma they had suffered, they complained, they forgot God’s amazing rescue mission, and some even wanted to go back to bondage in Egypt! And because they didn’t trust God, they spent 40 years wandering in a desert with a victim mentality, instead of taking on their new land and new lives full of victory and abundance. Only Joshua and Caleb, who believed God’s promises and were ready to go, were allowed into the Promised Land.
Can I tell you something? To live the abundant, victorious life that God has planned for us, we must refuse to dwell on the past hurts and abuse. We must look forward to God’s promises and the life of freedom and peace that He has called us to. Far too often, women are caught in the “poor me” pity party or in the trap of bitterness and hatred (sometimes for years or decades), rather than focusing on healing, the promises ahead, and gratitude for the rescue mission that God did for them. Satan would love to keep us focused on the wounds and offenses, so that we are ineffective to spread the kingdom of heaven. God says “Focus on me! And watch what I will do for those who love me!”
God knows how easy it is to look backwards. That’s why He said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43: 18, 19). I remember when a wise, older woman gave me this sage advice. It made all the difference. I stopped wallowing and started living again.
Beloved, as you embark on 2023, I encourage you refuse to dwell on the hurts of the past. Look for the way that God is making in your wilderness, notice the streams of fresh water that He has sent to flow in what was once a wasteland, and be on the lookout for God’s goodness. His blessings are following those who love him!