Research tells us that almost twenty percent of the adult population in the United States today suffers from some sort of clinical anxiety disorder—and that doesn’t even include the pervasive, sort of day-to-day worrying that many of us experience all the time. Some of you, even as you read this, have something on your mind that you simply cannot shake.  

  • A problem at work
  • A struggle with an addiction
  • A serious illness
  • Unresolved conflict in your life
  • A friend or a family member in crisis
  • Or maybe it’s a stack of bills that keeps piling higher

Whatever it is, it’s like our hearts slip into this state of a perpetual tossing and turning, making for long nights and very tiresome days.

In full disclosure, I’m there right now. I just went through my fourth night in a row of just a few hours of sleep because there’s a situation I just can’t shake.

Well, this morning I was doing a little reading in the Old Testament. And often when I’m in the OT, I find myself being very grateful that there are a lot of things they did back then that we just don’t do anymore in modern Christianity. However, there’s one particular practice that I actually think would be so helpful at times, and it’s the building of altars.

The Israelites often set up altars, not for sacrifice, but to mark and remember important events— times when they saw God’s faithfulness to them. The particular example I just read is found in Joshua chapter four, after God has parted the river Jordan for the Israelites to cross it, together they built an altar of 12 stones, one for each tribe.

“[Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over… He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

I think in our culture, we’ve almost been led to believe that you “shouldn’t look back.” You hear things like:

  • Stay focused on the path ahead and don’t look back.
  • You can’t be looking behind and moving forward at the same time.
  • There’s no reason to look back when you have so much to look forward to.

And in general, I get the point of these well-meaning motivational phrases. I’m not suggesting that you not make plans and stay focused on some dreams for your future, but I think we may be missing something.

The reality is, God repeatedly instructed a community of people, who were desperately trying to figure out what it looked like to trust this God with their future, that they needed to simply look to their past.

Look back and see what He did!

Remember His goodness and mercy!

Celebrate His faithfulness!

Ultimately, I think it’s hard to trust God with your future if you don’t find a way to celebrate His faithfulness in your past.

Is life going to turn out the way you want it to turn out? I have no idea.

Is God going to come through for you in the way that you want Him to? I have no idea.

Will my current situation resolve soon? I have no idea.

What I do know is, if I try to move forward into my future without finding ways to remember and celebrate the faithful, loving and merciful God of my past, then my mind is going to be full of worst-case scenarios, anxiety, and sleepless nights.

So I think maybe tonight before I lay my head on the pillow, it might just be a good idea to jot down a few times in my past where God faithfully got me through something I was incredibly worried about. Maybe that glance at the past will help me trust Him more with my future.