I’m a pretty sentimental person. I’m the sort who will always look back to wave at my friends after we part.
Goodbyes don’t sit well with me, whether it’s saying goodbye to people, places or seasons.
That is why though I know that change is the only constant in life, I can’t help but feel so emotional when life throws me changes.
Is feeling this sentimental okay?
Well, God gave us emotions, and they aren’t inherently sinful. It is our actions that result from our emotions which might lead to sin.
So at its core, I don’t think feeling sentimental is wrong. It is a natural human inclination to miss the good old times, and to reminisce about the past with friends.
However, when sentimentality robs our joy and hope, that’s something we have to address.
Though words like “sentimental” or “nostalgia” never appear in the Bible, we can learn from several characters who, overwhelmed by sentimentality, made wrong and costly decisions.
“As soon as [the angels] had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
… But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:17, 26)
Lot and his family lived in the exceedingly wicked city of Sodom.
In an act of divine judgement, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulphur, but not before extending mercy to Lot by sending angels to rescue him and his family.
Unfortunately, Lot’s wife looked back, disobeying what the angel had just told them.
Why did Lot’s wife look back? Could it be that she was reluctant to leave her old life behind? Could it be that she wanted to take one last, longing look at the city?
According to GotQuestions, the Hebrew word for “looked back” means more than to glance over one’s shoulder. It means “to regard, to consider, to pay attention to”.
The heart of Lot’s wife was not set on righteousness and obedience.
Her sentimentality for what was behind her, even sinful things, led her to pay the ultimate price for her mistake.
The Israelites freed from Egypt
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6)
It was meant to be an exuberant time. After being set free from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were finally about to enter the Promised Land!
However, when the Israelites reminisced about the good food they had in Egypt, bitterness and dissatisfaction began to breed.
This wasn’t just simply about complaining over what was on the menu — they began to crave their past.
The real problem was that the Israelites wanted to reject God, and return to Egypt to become slaves again.
If we’re not careful, sentimentality towards the past can create in us an intense longing for it.
That in turn can lead us bitterness and grumbling, which would cause us to sin (Philippians 2:14-16).
Keeping our emotions in check
How then can we make sure sentimentality and our feelings don’t lead us to sin? Here are two suggestions.
1. Focus on the new
““Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
It’s one thing to think about the past, it’s another to live in it.
God specifically told the people of Israel not to dwell on the past. In fact, He told them to forget it.
What that means for us, is that we must get rid of every obstacle that hinders us from looking forward to God’s “new thing” in our lives.
The past season might have been great, filled with lots of victories and breakthroughs.
But the end of a season is also the beginning of a new one. We need to catch what God is doing in our lives in every season.
God does not want us to stay stagnant in our walk with Him or in our lives.
What new things might God be ushering into your life? New challenges to develop your character? New revelations through deeper intimacy with Him?
Catch the vision, and keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Anticipate greater things in the future with God!
2. Focus on Jesus Christ
It’s so comforting to know that our Saviour understands our feelings. For instance, He also had to say goodbye to His disciples when His ministry on earth was done.
Elsewhere, it also strikes me how the Bible describes that Jesus was troubled in spirit (John 13:21) and that He was in anguish at the thought of the cross (Luke 22:44).
Despite that, He did not look back to better times in His ministry or His childhood.
Instead, He fixed His eyes on the greater joy (Hebrews 12:2) of reuniting God and His children forever!
As a result, Jesus’ death and resurrection made way for a new covenant — hope for all mankind.
The next time my sentimentality gets in the way of what God wants for my life, I am going to focus on Jesus.
I can fully trust that He will help me and lead me to wherever He calls me in the future.
As long we are on this side of eternity, there will be many goodbyes to be said.
Give yourself time to move on and even to grieve. Allow God to gently bring you through the transitions and encourage you step by step.
There will be a day where we never have to say another goodbye or ever be so caught up in the past — because just being together with God would be the best thing.
But till then, may our hearts be strong in the Lord.
May our eyes be fixed on Him!
- How do you handle change?
- What is the “new thing” that God might be doing in your life?
- What handles stood out to you in terms of keeping your emotions in check?