Look back, Give Thanks, Move Forward

Traveler pauses on the beach at sunset
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Remember God’s past provisions, let go of expectations and find new ways God is working today.

By Laura Buchanan

Neighboring has changed. Technology has transformed our daily living. Relationship building must overcome screen time. As societal norms shift, each generation has a moment of realization: “Things just aren’t what they used to be.”

“It’s funny how we glorify things in the past and we tend to dread things in the future, the unknown,” says Anne Bosarge, Director of Leadership Strategies and Local Church Resources in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. “We kind of forget the uncomfortable things that happened and yearn to go back to the familiar. We want it to be like it was – but the world isn’t like it was.”

Pause and remember

It’s healthy to take time to remember the past. Hindsight offers a chance to evaluate all that we have experienced. We see God fulfilling promises. We see God’s goodness and grace.

“When we remember who we are, whose we are, who God is and what he has done, we can give thanks and praise for God’s provision,” Bosarge shares. “Part of being able to see what God is doing in the midst of challenging circumstances is recognizing what he has already done and how he is working in spite of what is going on around you. And the only way to do that is to have a mindset of awareness.”

Go deeper by studying scripture

Find a new path forward

Ezra 3:8-13

Isaiah 43:18-19

Embrace the new

“Our past experiences form expectations that we bring with us as we move forward,” Bosarge observes. “We think we know what the future holds and what it will be like, but many times, it isn’t what we were expecting. It’s different. Then we have an interesting reaction: we compare the new things God is doing to the way it used to be.

“Some people joyfully welcome the new, while others mourn. We do this in our homes, churches and communities. It’s tempting to continually reminisce about the ‘way it was,’ but if we do this, we might not see the new ways God is moving.”

As our lifestyles morph due to technology and cultural changes, we must remain openminded.

“These new things are not bad, in fact, these are opportunities for us to consider how we will respond to God’s call to love our neighbors in this new time and space,” encourages Bosarge. “Don’t be so sad about the way that it used to be that you miss the joy and the possibility in the way that it is now. Don’t be so focused on what you have lost that you can’t see what you are gaining.”

Discover how God is working

Bosarge asks, “Do we look at our world and say, ‘God used to be working in my church, neighborhood and the relationships I used to have.’ Or, do we say, ‘Okay, God, show me where are you working.’ So often, the places where God is working are not the places we expect him to work.

‘God, show me where are you working.’ So often, the places where God is working are not the places we expect him to work. – Anne Bosarge

“God is the same God now as he was then and he is moving us to new places in the future. He doesn’t say, ‘One day I will do this.’ He says, ‘I am already doing this.’”

Technology now allows us to broadcast worship services to those who haven’t entered a sanctuary in years. Children can see themselves as part of our beautiful, diverse, global community. Home is wherever we best connect with people who love us. Work-life balance is more prevalent. Volunteer and ministry opportunities abound.

“God is renewing our minds through fresh viewpoints and thinking so that we can see the possibilities he has for us,” says Bosarge. “God is making a way for new relationships in your life. It’s not like it used to be, but just because it’s not like it used to be doesn’t mean that it can’t be great. God is inviting you to see it. He’s making a new way. He’s already at work.”

Laura Buchanan works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. This story was published on October 7, 2022.

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