I was like most two-year-old boys: long on wonder for the world and short on caution and balance. By my mom’s telling, I was tearing through the house to get from point A to point B. My parents had thoughtlessly purchased end tables and even had the audacity to place them in my racetrack. They called the space something else—“living room” I think. At an inopportune moment, my feet got tangled up and down I went, catching the corner of one table right between my eyes.

It was one of those “by the grace of God” moments because the injury could have been far worse. The wound bled, my mom cried, and I waited impatiently while she wiped me off before I could resume my adventures. As the wound healed, a scar began to form that is still with me today.

Is that not strange? A brief encounter over 40 years ago can have lasting impact as plain as the nose on my face. You too probably have distinguishing features—surgical scars, birthmarks, whatever they might be. They are just part of who you are.

Your past is like that. It has marked you, and in some cases, marked you deeply. If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about it very much. But just like the ever-present notch between my eyes, your past is a silent companion that accompanies you wherever you go.

What was God thinking? He could have made us without the capacity to remember. Every day would literally be a new day with no memories, no past, and no baggage.

Would that make life better? If you could walk through a device similar to a metal detector at an airport but one that would erase your past and its effects on you today, would you do it? And would you be better off?

Some people seem to think so. They describe the past with phrases such as “toxic past,” “wounded inner child,” or “damaged emotions.” In many cases they do so with good reason. As a counselor who spends hours each week listening to the experiences of hurting men and women, my heart often breaks over the abusive and painful experiences of others.

But does that mean that the past, in its entirety, is a bad thing? Would we all be better off if we could completely erase our memories and the impact our past has on our lives today?

Not if we allow God’s Word to guide us.

The Bible gives us several ways our pasts can be among our best friends. Of course your past is not an “it.” It is not a separate entity. But it is a record, in part, of the way God has related to you and worked in your life. The goal is not to focus on “it” but on who God is and what He has done.

As you read the following examples of how the past can be your friend, ask yourself if you are allowing this silent companion to serve you the way God designed. Perhaps there are elements of your past that are like a good friendship waiting to be cultivated and explored.

When You Need Strength and Confidence

Facing a difficult dilemma

Most likely you are familiar with the Bible’s account of the encounter between David and Goliath. The armies of Israel were faced off against their archenemy, the Philistines. Each morning and evening a giant warrior named Goliath came out to taunt the Israelites by offering to fight any man they would send. The deal was that if Goliath lost, the Philistines would become Israel’s servants. But if Goliath won, Israel would be enslaved to them. First Samuel 17:11 records this somber report: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”

Have you ever faced a challenge that seemed overwhelming? A habit that seemed impossible to break? A person who ridiculed your belief? A threat or insult that threw you off balance? We all have. Most of us know too well what it means to be “dismayed and greatly afraid” because of a seemingly Goliath-sized challenge.