Written by Jes Nuylan, Philippines
“Look to the future with the past in mind.”
I came across this phrase last year when I went on vacation in Baguio City, one of the tourist towns in Benguet Province of the Philippines. Benguet is a place of lush trees and green mountains, where you can hear the chirping of birds and the rustle of leaves. It’s the perfect place to do some serious thinking, reminiscing, and soul-searching. So, far from my busy schedule and constant challenges at work, I had time to relax, reflect about my life, and remind myself to be thankful for all the blessings around me that I sometimes fail to see.
During those moments, I found myself thinking, where did the time go? It’s as if time had run on ahead of me and I didn’t notice till it had already gone. And what did I do with that time? Was it spent in a worth-while manner? Reflecting on those questions, I had a few regrets.
I earned a living, but did not spend enough quality time with family. I travelled and explored the world, but did not do much to advance God’s kingdom. I especially regretted the lost opportunities at work. Though I was generally a good example to my colleagues and friends at the work place, I did not take those opportunities to share God’s word.
During that vacation, I also visited the Philippine Military Academy—a training school for the officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Inside, I not only got to glimpse the trainees doing drills, but I was also able to explore the grounds and see vintage tanks, helicopters, other historical military weapons, as well as memorials to the American and Korean wars. These relics reminded me of the sacrifices of the past, but could not actually bring me back to those times.
It’s the same with my own past. I can always look back on it: events that shaped who I am, people dear to my heart who have come and gone in my life, achievements I am proud of, mistakes I regret . . . I might cringe at a bad memory or smile at some small noble deed, but I can never go back to those times. Instead, I need to ask what I can do with the present.
The present is not always easy. Tragedies happen. Relationships fail. Pets die. But I am convinced that as long as we listen to and follow God’s voice and will in our lives, we can always count on what was declared in Romans 8:28: “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
When I look at the financial problems and family difficulties I have to face, I can find it hard to get through the day. But this verse reminds me to follow Christ and serve the Lord, and eventually, He will put all things in order.
Looking to the future
After my vacation, the real world threw cold water on me as I returned to the city and my job. I had spent my vacation remembering the past, and I thought that reliving good times and knowing what mistakes to avoid repeating were going to be good enough. But as I returned to the battlefield of life, tons of tasks awaiting me, piles of bills accumulated, and loved ones continued to depend on me.
I realized that there are times for processing the past, but getting stuck there makes us forget what lies ahead. My current goals in life are to provide for my family’s house, as well as prepare for my future family. The time has come to write down my list of New Year’s resolutions, which should help me meet my goals.
Yet whatever my personal plans, it terrifies me that ultimately I am not in control over the uncertainties of the future. This thought always brings me back to my true purpose here on earth: to share God’s love through my life and win souls for Him. This should always be my first priority, above any of my personal plans. As it says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
In 2018, I will focus my eyes on Jesus, not on my mistakes, trials, or even people around me, but on Jesus alone. I have to admit that in 2017 I did not fully contribute to my purpose here on earth. But instead of complaining about my trials or wishing for a different life, I will instead be thankful for God’s unconditional love, abounding grace, and all the blessings He has bestowed upon me. I will try harder to live out what I am reading in the Bible and learning in my devotions.
More importantly, I will do more to share God’s goodness and bring souls to Him. This year, God has led me to a new company and helped me gain more friends whom I can share His good news with.
With all that has happened this year, be it good or bad, the new year brings another chance. Learning from past mistakes and lost opportunities, I am able to run this race while looking to the future: the life that God has prepared for me in eternity after this life on earth.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.