I just had a birthday. At my age that’s both good news and bad news. I’m glad I’m still here. (As someone said, it sure beats the alternative!) But it does give an opportunity to look both backward and forward, and think about what I wish I had known when I was younger.
You can probably look back and see some things you wish you had known also. The purpose of looking back isn’t to be filled with regrets, but to let past experiences, mistakes, and pain become valuable for the future. In God’s economy nothing need be lost. Every problem, every missed opportunity, every negative experience, every bad choice can provide fuel to learn and grow. That’s just plain common sense, and it’s also the message of the gospel. In God’s hands all our problems can be transformed into character and beauty.
Here are some things I’d say to my younger self if I could:
- Don’t worry about what other people think. Getting good grades or making bosses happy is only a fraction as important as finding out what God wants you to do, and doing it. The sooner you stop doing things to please others the sooner you’ll be able to accomplish something of true value for others and for God’s Kingdom.
- Learn how to say NO. Wanting to please people makes it too easy to always say Yes. NO is a complete sentence. You don’t have to provide an explanation unless you choose to. Others may not understand your NO, and that’s OK. If you find it difficult to say NO to someone, that’s probably the most important NO you need to say. Learn how to do it.
- It’s OK to risk and fail. Every “failure” is only a stepping stone to something greater if you learn from the experience. You’ll later regret any decision you make out of fear. It’s OK to look carefully at the information you have and consider your options, but you’ll never have complete answers. Step out there and do something even if it’s scary.
- Not everybody is your friend. There are some people you can trust; treasure those relationships. There are some people who cause you pain even though they don’t desire your hurt; forgive them. And there are some people who are truly harmful to you because of their own or the enemy’s hatred of you; pray for God’s protection, take action, and walk away.
- Don’t ever give up. The darkness you see now won’t last forever. There truly is sunshine on the other side of the clouds. In the area of finances, relationships, career, emotional health, love, and spiritual growth, learn to just do the next right thing as best you know it. And the next right thing after that. Just keep walking. It will get better.
- God won’t let you down. He never promised you a rose garden, as the song goes, but He’ll never leave you. When you feel like He’s not there, not listening, or doesn’t care, know that He is actually very close to you. From His perspective you’re already on the other side of your problems, and He’ll walk with you every step of the way until you’re there. Stick with Him; His is the winning side.
Here are the Scriptures about getting older that provide a lot of wisdom:
- Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.
- Psalm 92:14 “They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing”
- Isaiah 46:4 “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
- Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
- Ecclesiastes 12:1 “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them””
I’m glad God gives us time to learn and grow.
Your Turn: If you could send a letter to your younger self, what would you say? Leave a comment below.
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