“I wish things were like they used to be.” Most people have felt this when there has been the loss of a person, security, or a good experience. It could be:
The loss of an important family member or mentor
The loss of youth
The loss of a very impactful church season
The loss of confidence in the direction of their nation
Joshua knew Moses had died, but it appears he did not accept it. He needed to be jolted out of disappointment and fear by accepting that the “Moses season” was over so he could embrace what God was doing and saying. Concerning this, the first two verses of Joshua chapter one are fascinating.
“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan’” (Joshua 1:1-2).
God was basically saying, “Joshua, Moses is really dead. You have to move out of denial and arise into your calling and assignment. You must overcome clinging to the past. It is a new day for you that will bring out the greatness in you and those you lead. “
I can empathize with Joshua. I tend to get comfortable with the way things are. It is familiar and feels safe. But some of my greatest breakthroughs happened after I seemingly lost important support systems I had relied on. It was scary, but, like Joshua, I found God’s reality in a greater way.
This is what happened to Isaiah in a time of national uncertainty. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). Uzziah had reigned 52 years in Judah. He was a strong leader who led his nation into prosperity and blessing. His death brought uncertainty about the future. It was in this time of loss that Isaiah saw God as his true source, not men.
When something has died in our lives, it is an opportunity to encounter God in a life-changing way as Isaiah did. As I write, I sense the people who will read this being freed from disappointment and regret, and being led to incredible encounters with God’s love and a greater life purpose.
As we transition into new seasons of our lives, we will all sense sadness over the loss of something or someone important to us. If we are not careful though, we can stay in a perpetual state of mourning and regret concerning what has been lost. Like Samuel, we will be neutralized about the future:
“Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons’” (1 Samuel 16:1).
Samuel had stopped moving forward because of disappointment (things not working out as he thought they would). He had gone beyond the normal time of grief for the failure of his spiritual son, Saul. He was in a place where he could not have vision and hope for the future because he was fixated on what he had lost from the past. He broke out of his disappointment and tiredness by clarifying his assignment and his priority relationships for the season he was in.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13). We all have “those things” to reach forward to. What is ahead will look different than we thought, but as we overcome unhealthy nostalgia, we will be positioned for a great future for ourselves and for others.
In conclusion, one of my favorite truths to declare and believe is, “I will thrive no matter what happens.” It is a catalytic hope igniter for me. It comes from Philippians 4:11-13 and reminds me that people of hope bounce back much faster than those without hope for their future. As we increasingly believe this, we will be like Joshua and move past wishing things were the way they used to be.
What we are not saying as we share this truth:
We are not saying we should not contend for certain aspects of the past to remain.
We are not saying we should easily let go of past commitments we have made.
We are not saying we should not have a time of mourning for the losses we experience.
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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.