For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been.” – John Greenleaf Whittier.

Are we slaves to the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” syndrome? “If only…” are words of such sad regret. It might have been, but it isn’t. If only I “woulda” done this or done that. We cannot relive the past, and what has been done is done. The only way we can go from here is forward. It has been said, “Don’t look back unless you plan on going that way.” Unfortunately no one can.

What does the Apostle Paul have to say on this subject? “Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

We should use the experiences of the past to learn how to better proceed in the future, but to wallow around in self-pity for what might have been is to waste the few precious moments we still have. So Paul did this one thing. He forgot or put behind him the past, and he reached forward to that which is before. He looked ahead and focused on the Kingdom. And what a great future we all have if we follow the example of Paul. He said, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind.”

If we follow the wise advice of the apostle we will live happy and contented lives. We can live with no regrets—not that we haven’t done things for which we are sorry, but because we believe in God’s forgiveness.

If God says He will put all our sins behind His back, then we can depend on Him that He will.

Hezekiah’s experiences are an example of how this approach can help us in our personal situations. Hezekiah seemed to be overwhelmed with problems; he turned to God and said, “I cried like a swift or thrush, I moaned like a morning dove. My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. I am troubled; O Lord come to my aid!” God hears prayer, and we know that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. While God may not remove a trial, if that is our request, He will always give us strength to endure if we but ask in faith.

Hezekiah was filled with gratitude for the help he received: “But what I can say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction, you have put all my sins behind your back. For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing you praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today.”

Many times at the time of trial we may not understand why God has allowed it to happen. If we trust in the Lord with all our heart, as Solomon tells us to do, then we do not lean upon our own understanding. If in all our ways we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths. Often later we can say with Hezekiah, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.”

Along with Paul and Hezekiah, if we forget the past and stop mourning for “what might have been,” then we can rejoice that the Lord is in control of our lives. We can acknowledge that “all things are working together for our good” and thankfully say to God with Isaiah, “The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today.”

Paul and Hezekiah have told us not to worry about the past, and Jesus gives us similar advice about the future. Jesus tells us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

What a happy life we can have now! We forget the past, and press forward towards the goal of the coming Kingdom with no worries or concerns of what might have been. God has cast all our sins behind His back, our future is in God’s hands and He is causing everything to work together for our good (ultimate good). We can rejoice and be thankful for our many blessings as we join Isaiah in praising God and saying, “The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today.”