For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:38-39, NASB
Read the above verses carefully. What does Paul fail to list? He declares that nothing in the present or the future can separate from the love of God. What about our past life, our past failures? Can they separate us from God?
As with many things, the answer is both Yes and No.
When we come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, He does exactly that. He forgives us. The past is gone. No matter what we have done, said or been in our past life we enter a new life in Christ. The past, whether it was 50 years ago or five minutes ago, when brought to Jesus is gone. We no longer need to feel guilt and shame [although we may still have to face consequences]. We are released, set free from that prison. It no longer has any hold on us. We live in the present and move into a glorious future with Christ.
In fact, God goes further than that. He re-writes our story. Remember, Sarah? When she overhead the angels telling Abraham that she and Abraham would have a son within a year she laughed to herself in mocking disbelief [Gen. 18:12-15]. Yet, when God remembered her in the famous Heroes Of The Faith chapter, what did he say?
By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Heb. 11:11, NASB
That’s how God, Who cannot lie, chose to remember it! And He does the same with us. It is not that God does not know what happened [He is omniscient, after all], but He chooses to bring the good out of it. He chooses to build us up into the people of God He has made us to be. So, after we have been forgiven, we do not have to fear our past or be embarrassed by it in the presence of God. He remembers it differently than we do.
So, No, our past does not separate us from the love of God; however, Yes, it can separate us from the love of God if we choose to live there.
God does not live in the past. He heals it, works with us in the present and plans for our future. If we choose to live in the past then we have found the one place in the universe that God is not.
There are two types of things that can keep us in the past. The first one is pain.
Pain is a wound in our soul or spirit. Like a physical wound, it hurts! The wound can be caused by either something we have done or something that was done to us [or we believe was done to us]. It is impossible to avoid pain in life, but what we do with it determines whether it is a clean wound that will heal or an infected wound that will destroy our lives.
A clean wound, if we have caused it ourselves, is something that we bring to Jesus, receive His forgiveness for, seek the forgiveness of those we have hurt and make whatever restitution we are able to. Then we move on. If it is a wound caused by others, we choose to forgive them, pray for them and bless them.
The deeper the wound, the more it may need to be treated in order to be healed. How do we know that a past wound is healed? It is healed when we can remember it without pain or resentment. It has then become a scar, which we know is there but not longer causes pain. As long as it causes pain we need to continually cleanse it by choosing to forgive those who have wronged us. This does not separate us from the love of God as Jesus is right there with us walking through the process with us for complete healing.
The second thing that can keep us in the past - chained to the past and unable to experience the love of God - is unforgiveness and bitterness. This is an infected wound.
An infected wound, if we have caused it ourselves, is one we refuse to bring to Jesus for forgiveness and we justify our actions so we don’t have to seek forgiveness or make restitution to others. If it is a wound that has been caused by others, then we hold onto it, replay it in our minds with hatred, bitterness or unforgiveness. We lock ourselves into a dark cell, where God is not, and allow it to eat away at us. We would rather have the pseudo-comfort of our own bitterness - as if that somehow hurts those who have hurt us - than to release them, walk into the Light and rebuild our lives in God’s love. Resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness will keep us chained to the past - and for that we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Consider this: Habouring bitterness and unforgiveness means we have a high opinion of ourselves and a low opinion of the holiness of God along with a spirit of ungratefulness. Harsh? What we are really saying is that Person A has sinned against me more than I have sinned against God. If we really understood the holiness of God and that any sin is an intimate violation of His very Person we would know that we have abused and violated God far more than any person - no matter how horribly - could have abused us. Yet, God not only choose to forgive us [and continue forgiving us], but also He chose to place us in His family. If we choose not to forgive those who have sinned against us, it is the ultimate ungrateful slap in the Face to God [Matt. 18:23-35].
I know that some hurts are very deep. They are not to be taken lightly or healed lightly. But remember Jesus is the Healer, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Father loves you. They are able to bring healing and restoration to your life, no matter how deep and raw the cuts are. But you must choose to bring it to Them. Even if you feel it is totally impossible for you to forgive or let go of your bitterness, you must choose to ask Jesus to work His forgiveness and love in you. It may be a long process, but if you will keep coming to Jesus, He will enable you and walk beside you every step of the way. In some cases, you may need the help of your pastor or a professional Christian counsellor. That is fine. Do whatever you need to do to bring your wound to the Light so it can turn from an infected wound into a clean wound that can be healed.
God loves you. Do not shut yourself off from Him in the dark corridors of your past.