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Blog: Wit 'n Wisdom

          Janice LaQuiere




If Only

 By Janice LaQuiere

A month after my grandmother died I stood gazing across the yard at her house. My heart was filled with sadness. I had lost both a grandmother I love, and a treasured friend. I spent the next few weeks looking back on our life together thinking if only…. There were a lot of “if onlys”. My grandmother died from ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” While the cause of this disease isn’t known, the medical community believes stress plays an important part in initiating ALS. “Stress” means that this illness may have been avoided. If only we had prevented some of the stress in her life.  “If only—” I sadly reflected on those words that Sunday afternoon. If only she hadn’t fallen and hurt her ankle. If only she had gone to the doctor earlier. If only she had taken the vitamins and herbs we gave her. If only she had been a healthy eater. If only she hadn’t worked so hard.

Genesis 19:26 says, “Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt.” Instead of focusing on the goal she longed for what she had left behind. Because of our failure to trust in God, and in the salvation that we have through Jesus Christ, we often spend our energy regretting or longing for the past. Instead, we need to trust in His forgiveness, and depend upon His care and faithfulness for real peace. As the people of Israel learned, it’s a sin to long for the leeks and onions of a land from which the Lord God has redeemed us.  Our eyes should remain centered on Him. By focusing our attention on the past we lose the enjoyment of today. When we become absorbed about our former days we lose the excitement of looking forward to tomorrow; the adventure that comes with faith, and the comfort from knowing that our God is always with us.

God chose to display His glory among the nations by making the people of Israel His own and bringing them out of Egypt (Ex. 9:16). Instead of recognizing God’s salvation and looking forward to the Promised Land, the Israelites focused on their “if onlys.” Num. 14:2-3 tells us that the whole assembly said to Moses, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” The Israelites lost the great blessing God had for them by wishing for their past instead of trusting God with their future.

I’m thirty-four and single, I still struggle with the desire to relive my life, certain that I would work harder, be stronger, love deeper. I know that I would right my errors so that today I would be more of who I should be. I must continually remind myself that the longer I mediate on my earlier years the more likely it is that I will become distracted from the plans God has for me.

We should focus on the past only long enough to learn from our mistakes and seek repentance. 2 Kings 22 describes what happened to Judah’s King Josiah. After he ordered the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt, the priests discovered the laws of Moses. By revisiting Israel=s past Josiah saw the many places where the nation had violated God=s laws. Josiah tore down the idols, destroyed the high places, and humbled himself before the Lord God. 2 Kings 23:25 states: “before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD . . . nor did any like him arise after him.”

When we spend our energies looking at the things that might have been, we give up the peace that comes from knowing our God is sovereign and that all things work together for our good. We need to stop focusing on the unchangeable past, put away from our mind the words “if only,” and press forward to the goal God has placed in front of us.

There is still a temptation for me to second-guess my earlier years. However, when the yearning strikes me I put it out of my mind. Instead, I look at what God has given me today. This may mean counting my blessings, determining what God would have me to do now, or planning for the future. That Sunday afternoon I stopped to thank God for what He gave me in the relationship with my grandmother—the love, the friendship, and the time we had together. I looked at all the positives and realized that I was greatly blessed.


©Janice LaQuiere 2004