What snapshots make it into your photo albums? Maybe yours are filled with weddings, births, parties, reunions, and gatherings of all kinds. There are smiling people and places we don’t want to forget, so we capture single, fleeting moments in time and file them away for safekeeping. By recalling the joyful moments, we vicariously recapture the joy.
Rarely, do we take the time to photograph the unpleasantries of life. We MIGHT photograph a fender bender for the insurance company, but that picture won’t make into our photo albums. Even if we snap a photo of someone causing trouble in public, it goes to the authorities instead of the album.
Yet, when it comes to being hurt or hurting someone else with our words or actions, those few mental images can stop us in our tracks and command our complete attention. And, why is it that those photos ALWAYS enlarge before slipping themselves into the hefty album we keep in our minds? They significantly mark our souls with indelible ink. Satan likes it that way. He worked hard to intentionally set up the photo shoot and position everyone exactly where he wanted them. He filled the scene with pain and smirked as he signed his name. I REALLY don’t like him!
Even though we try to skip over those pictures in our minds, every now and then something will trigger those unhappy memories. What do we do when that happens? Do we, once again, chew the memories into a mush that infiltrates our hearts and settles in our stomachs? Or … do we choose to look at them only long enough to learn a lesson or two and then move on to happier memories? Yes, we sometimes have to go back to those hard scenes to find healing, but we never need to stay there. I believe we always have a choice. When choices lead, feelings follow.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah right, I’ve heard all this before. You just don’t know what’s in my album!” You’re right. I don’t. And you don’t know all that’s in mine. But hopefully, we both know that the Holy Spirit is stronger than Satan. We know that God’s word is true. We know that if we have the Holy Spirit living in us, then we contain the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. (Ephesians 1:19-21) As CeCe Winans’ song “No Greater” says, “If God is greater, then let Him be greater! If God is stronger, let Him be stronger! If He’s higher, let Him be higher!” Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on our own power! We can choose to let HIM be greater.
How do we go about choosing His power over our own?
We begin our day with Him – EVERY day. After we worship, read the Word, and pray, we listen. It takes some practice to hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to our hearts and minds. But I promise, if you want to hear it, you will. After a while, you’ll stop thinking of quiet time as a duty, but as a delight. You’ll look forward to your time with Him, and you’ll find comfort, instruction, and peace. Your mind, will, and emotions will find a soft spot to land. It takes time, but I can promise you, it will happen. “You [Lord] make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 ESV)
If you’re having trouble dismissing the unwanted photos in your mind, don’t be too ashamed or proud to ask for help. You may need help with your healing. Find a pastor, friend, or counselor who will let you talk things out and point you back to God’s words. “You have done many good things for me, Lord, just as you promised. I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge. I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word. You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm139:65-68 NLT)
When unpleasant memories come back to haunt you, make the choice to replace them with the thousands of happy memories you have stored away. Flip back through your own real, tangible photos. Give thanks for all the happy times and smiling faces. Be intentional for Jesus’ sake! Know that even in your hardest moments Jesus was there loving you, comforting you, and holding you close. “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT)
(If you skipped over that Scripture, go back and read it as many times as it takes for you to feel it.)
The indelible ink of the hurtful memories that marked your life will eventually begin to fade, but it will never go away completely. God can and will use it for good. The stain remains to mark your victory! It reminds you to share with others the incredible joy and peace available to them from the God who does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
Choices lead. Feelings follow. Good or bad. We don’t run on our feelings, but it sure is good to know what we’re running on! Thank you, Holy Spirit!
“I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.” (John 14:25-28a NLT)