Selective Memory: Focus on the Good Times

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If you want to hold on to your painful memories, then go right ahead. But you’re not going to be happy!

“I thank God for the help you gave me” (Philippians 1:5a NCV).

Developing an attitude of gratitude does not come naturally. We are not by nature grateful people. We are by nature discontented. We always want more or something different.In the book of Philippians, Paul was writing to the church that he started in Philippi, where a woman named Lydia opened up her home and, along with others, welcomed Paul to the city. The Philippian church even helped fund Paul’s missionary journeys. In Philippians 1:5, Paul says, “I thank God for the help you gave me” (NCV).

The thing is, Paul didn’t have a good time in Philippi. In fact, it was one of his toughest churches to get started. When Paul went to this city to start a church, he was beaten, whipped, humiliated, falsely arrested, thrown into prison, and survived an earthquake. Then, he was politely asked by the city leaders to leave town.

Yet Paul told the believers, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3 NLT, second edition).

What is Paul doing there? He is choosing selective memory. Philippi was not a happy place for Paul, and he endured a lot of persecution and suffering during his time in that city. But he chose not to dwell on painful memories and instead expressed his gratitude for the good things that God had done.

The longer you know someone, the more likely you are to take that person for granted and to look for faults and remember the bad things instead of the good things.

Are you still reliving painful memories with some people in your life? You’ve never let them off the hook, and you can’t enjoy the relationship because you’re still holding on to the past.

You need to understand that memories are a choice. I heard a story one time about two friends. One of them asked the other, “Don’t you remember that time when your husband did this?” Her friend replied, “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

Your memories are a choice. If you want to hold on to your painful memories, go right ahead. But you’re not going to be happy! Paul had a lot of reasons to have painful memories of Philippi. Instead, he made the choice to be grateful for the people in his life and the work God was doing in and through them. When you do the same, God will bless your relationships far beyond your expectations.

Talk It Over

  • Why is it sometimes easier to hold onto painful memories than replace them with good ones?
  • How does focusing on good memories change your expectations for the future?
  • What do you need to do when a painful memory starts to resurface?

This devotional © 2016 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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