From pretty early on, I’ve learned to stuff down my painful memories. I didn’t have the resources or the understanding to work through them on my own and so naturally, I did all I could to forget them.
And well into my teenage years, these memories stayed as far down as I could get them. Occasionally they would catch up to me. I’d spent many nights dealing with their heartbreak, but for the most part, I lived daily as if they didn’t exist.
It wasn’t easy, but it was all I knew how to cope with them.
When I learned of Jesus’s love for me, and gave my life to the Lord midway through high school, I began to see myself and my past differently.
Over time and because of those who invested in loving me, I began to see that God didn’t want me running from these painful memories.
When we run from the painful memories of our past, we allow ourselves to be wrapped tightly in bondage by them.
And I was in bondage, big time.
[bctt tweet="When we run from the painful memories of our past, we allow ourselves to be wrapped tightly in bondage by them." username="NicoleAKauffman"]
I wanted nothing to do with these painful memories and the powerful emotions they brought with them. But as I grew in my faith, I began to find the courage and the desire to stop running.
I had a few really amazing friends and mentors who stepped alongside me in this process and I began to face these painful memories.
I want to share some of the ways that I’ve begun to learn to let go of the painful memories of the past. I am still a work in progress and I believe that “letting them go” is a lifelong process.
BUT I do believe that God will bring you peace and begin to restore and redeem this painful parts of your life. So don’t become discouraged and keep fighting the good fight!
First-Embrace Them, Feel Them
One of the most important first steps in letting go of painful memories is to allow yourself to embrace them.
After years of running from memories, I finally had to let them in for all that they were.
As long as they were in the dark, Satan had a hold on them. They felt shameful, guilt-ridden and hopeless.
In order to bring them into the light, I had to acknowledge the painful parts of them.
It wasn’t easy, accepting the hurt and the pain. But as I allowed myself to feel that pain, I began to find peace.
You have to allow yourself the space to feel the painful parts of those memories before you can truly let them go.
If you’ve been running from the painful memories of your past, or if you’re like me and you stuff those memories down, I want to encourage you to allow the door to be open in God’s timing.
Don’t force it open, but pray that God will direct you as you open your heart to the possibility of embracing the painful memories of your past.
Taking Every Thought Captive
If you are in the process of letting go of painful memories, you must be ready to take every thought captive to Christ.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5
This means that you must commit to surrendering each of your thoughts to the Lord. One of the biggest roadblocks to letting go of painful memories is: rumination.
When you ruminate on something, it means that you think it through over and over again in an unhealthy way.
I have spent years ruminating on painful things and it has gotten me stuck in the pain and wallowing.
God wants us to see our pain for what it is. Satan wants us to see it as bigger and all-consuming. Which will you choose?
The next time you find yourself thinking about painful memories, consider whether you are thinking in a healthy way or in an unhealthy and ruminating way.
In the Light
Letting go of painful memories does not mean that you will never feel the pain of them again.
I wish that I could say that as I’ve faced them, I’ve moved past the pain. I haven’t.
We live in a broken world and the memories of how this brokenness has impacted our own life will not disappear.
But, we can view them in the light of God’s grace and mercy.
As you work through them, in prayer, in counseling or therapy, with mentors and friends, you will begin to view them within the hold of God’s unfailing love and grace. And as you do, the pain will fade.
I love this song as I consider the painful memories in my own life.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full upon His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
As you surrender your painful memories to the Lord and cling to the light of His grace, you will find hope and joy, even in the pain. God is working to redeem and restore your heart right in this very moment.
How have you seen His grace in your life this week?