“Get over it!” “Move on!” “The past is gone!”

Well-meaning friends may offer you their best unsolicited advice, but their words hurt. Why? The past still haunts you. Are new beginnings possible? Is healing a reality? How do we confidently release the past and embrace the future? How do we find the strength to “press on”?

I’ll be the first to admit that some gut-wrenching issues in my life have taken time and even Christian counseling in order to heal and move forward again. So I’m not offering you pat answers.

Life-altering wrongs committed against us may never be corrected in this lifetime. But what about the times when we’ve wounded others? How can we remove the “Cain-stamped” seal on our souls – the glaring sins and blunders that have almost destroyed our lives in the past?

Only God can completely remove those, but here are five ways to help you find healing from your past.

1. See yourself as God sees you.

As a child growing up in the church, I still remember the teaching on “justification.” One teacher explained it simply: Jesus’ death on the cross made it possible for me to be right with God – ”just as if I had never sinned” (Romans 3:24). So, as a follower of Christ, I get that. Because of Jesus, that’s the way God views me.

But in a series of Christmas messages at our current church recently, a speaker focused on Jesus and His perfect character. Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He never sinned. Faced with every wrong choice imaginable, He always obeyed. When Jesus took our sin upon Himself, the perfect, sinless, Son of God, and we accept that payment for our own sins, God then sees us, as believers, like He sees Jesus – as if we have always obeyed, and as if we always will obey.

Maybe that truth doesn’t affect you the same way, but somehow, seeing me as if I’ve always obeyed – in addition to just as if I’d never sinned (even though they mean the same) – forged in me a new attitude of gratitude. If God sees me that way, then I need to as well. The mistakes and sins of my past no longer exist – except as a reminder in my own heart of my humanity (which leads me to #2.)

2. Place GRACE beside every destructive thought and negative reminder from the past that threatens you.

Satan loves to remind God’s children of their marriage mess-ups, their parenting blunders, their business failures, and their prideful actions of the past. You can keep trying to pay for those yourself, but the reality is, you can never really undo the past. You can only learn from it, and accept God’s grace to move beyond it. It’s God’s grace that erases our past; and it’s God’s grace that will remake our future (Ephesians 2:5-8; Hebrews 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Each time you begin to dwell on your mistakes or sins of the past, visually picture the words GRACE beside those thoughts, pushing the negative ones out. Then whisper a thank you cry to God: “Lord, thank you for your grace that brings healing from my past. Thank you for redeeming me, and for seeing me as if I have always obeyed. Thank you that You love me completely and unconditionally.”

3. Meditate on the healing truths in God’s Word daily.

Almost every “how-to” topic I write seems to include this step. But the relevance of God’s Word never changes (Isaiah 40:8, Proverbs 30:5, Matthew 4:4, NIV). Scientists and doctors have proved that prayer and meditation on spiritual truths like those in the Bible can actually promote healing, well-being, and longevity, by impacting the brain positively.

Joshua 1:8 told us thousands of years ago what scientists are just now discovering. ”Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8, NIV). Centuries later, the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in the Word because, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).