“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God…” Romans 8:28
Jason and I have been composting recently, and I’ve found how little we need to throw away. Discarded scraps of vegetables and fruit, old leaves, coffee grounds, even old weeds can be used to compost. Piled together and given time to decompose, these items become a nutrient dense soil to fertilize fresh gardens. This idea of composting is, I believe, a picture of how God uses all things from our past for our good–nothing from our lives goes to waste.
We may look at the past and see “waste,” “failure,” or “hindrance,” – He sees opportunity. He can use the glory of past seasons, the unused fruit, and even the weeds of our past in a divine compost to transform and bless our future. Nothing is wasted in His kingdom. The remains of our past, good, bad, or simply wasted, are not to be focused on or fretted over. They are to be entrusted into His hand, because He has the wisdom and mercy to use it in due time.
Old leaves, yard waste, and the inedible parts of fruit and vegetables; these are the remains of last seasons growth and glory. These are the indications of past fruitfulness and vitality. It’s tempting to remember the “good ole’ days,” especially when in a present season of difficulty, but we are to remain forward thinking as Paul said, pressing forward ultimately to the upward call of Christ (Phil 3:13-14). The beauty we may have shown forth in one area of our lives simply fades and does not remain. It may be that we had a season of ministry success, financial blessing, or even great physical health. But just like the leaves and grass fade and fruit is consumed, so the glory we have in one season is not meant to last in the next. He doesn’t want us to focus on the past but to give it all to Him and believe for future seasons of abundance and beauty.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
More surprising, weeds can be added to a compost pile. Weeds are a nuisance, that which hinder growth, that which defile a beautiful garden-scape. The weeds can be thought of as our failures, weaknesses, sins– things which hinder us from moving forward in the grace of God to become the abundant, fruitful garden we are destined to be. Weeds decompose down to nitrates and other simple compounds that are beneficial for soil. Our past will never be perfect, but God can use the imperfections of our past to bless our future. Weeds that disfigured our past gardens can be used to revitalize future seedbeds. This is something Peter understood quite well.
After Peter denied Jesus three times, He came to restore Peter and called him into his future as a shepherd of Israel. The weeds of pride which allowed Peter to proclaim his unwavering devotion to Christ were exposed as he denied Jesus. How could God use this, this weed, as a future blessing? While most would want to look at such an instance as utter failure, Jesus rather saw this as an opportunity for Peter to learn his great need of humility. Peter learned that it was not through the strength of his own dedication to Jesus that would allow him to remain faithful, but the greatness of His mercy and love. God used even this, Peter’s denial, to equip Peter for future ministry and leadership. He wanted Peter to know that greatness in leadership was not about personal strength, but about serving others in humility by leaning upon God for all things. This failure was not wasted in Peter’s life, but was rather used to shape who he was, that future seasons would receive the blessing of this lesson learned.
“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’. And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
What happened in the past is the past and it cannot be changed, nor does it disappear, but in God’s economy there is a transformation that can take place. The remains of yesteryears can be piled up in His “divine compost.” With time, God will use it to bless our future as we entrust to Him the entirety of our lives, and we will look back and be able to see how God used it all to turn it into a blessing.
The failures are never to be seen as a hindrance of moving forward, nor is past glory to be longed for and fantasized about. God takes the entirety of our lives and can use it to make something beautiful in our future. The thought, “if only I had not done this,” or “If only I had not been struggling with that,” or “If only I could do that again,” are all merely remnants of our past. When we give them over to God and choose to look forward and rest in His grace, we will soon see how He blesses our future because we have entrusted Him with our past.
Letting go of all that remains brings the greatest blessing today- the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. May we commit all things to Him, trusting that He will use it for our good.