Are you stuck in the past? Are you unable to move beyond things you have done wrong or what others have done wrong to you? The story of Lazarus can give us some insight on how God seeks to free us from the pain of the past.  

John 11:40-44 states, “Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger]. When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.”(AMP) 

Notice something important. Jesus told people around Lazarus to free him. When Lazarus died, he was wrapped in burial cloths — cloths that kept him from smell­ing and decaying. However, when new life came, he had to take off the burial cloths. You may be feeling right now that you have been dead inside, dead emotionally, dead spiritually, but life has come. So many times God begins to give new life to broken people, but they never take off the burial cloths. When the burial cloths remain on, the person cannot fully re­ceive the new life. This is where most people become stuck.

God did His part by bringing new life to Lazarus. Lazarus had to do his part by coming out of the tomb and having the grave cloths taken off. God can only do His part. You have to do yours. You have to take off the situation from your past and all the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that went with it.  

I want to take a few moments to focus on why people do not take off their grave cloths and hang on to their painful pasts. There are four main reasons: 


The most common reason people do not take off the grave cloths is because of fear: fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of other people, fear of being helpless, fear of success, fear of the other shoe dropping, fear of responsibility, fear of attention, and fear of looking like a fool. All of these are different types of fear that cause people to remain in bondage.


Another reason people have not taken off their grave cloths is because it doesn’t really look like God has shown up. You know your situation is better, but it is still not over. Since it is not over, you are questioning if God really has delivered you. This creates an atmosphere of confusion and questioning.


Another reason people do not take off their grave cloths is because they become stuck. It is so easy to just focus on surviving instead of living. I can remember in my own brokenness when I felt God had shown up and things had begun to change. I was getting stronger in my faith again. My husband and I went away for one night and spent some time together. The next morning, I was lying out at the pool and began to feel tired again and just down. I asked the Lord what was going on and here is what the Spirit spoke to my heart: “You are just trying to survive still instead of living again.” It instantly resounded through my heart and mind. I had traded in living just to get through each day. The Lord wanted me to begin to experience life again.


The last reason people do not take off their grave cloths is because of self-pity. Self-pity says things like “This is too hard,” “I didn’t deserve this,” or “Why me?” You may have gone through a lot and do not feel like continuing to push yourself. However, when you begin to get wrapped up in self-pity, it creates major bondage in your life. This is why you MUST take off your grave cloths.

So how do you take off your grave cloths? What needs to happen in order to move beyond your past? Here are three steps to help you:

1.         Give everything to God – In order for you to be completely restored you have to give God everything — all of your brokenness. He wants to exchange your brokenness for beauty. He wants to exchange your brokenness for the oil of joy. He wants to exchange your brokenness for a garment of praise. How do you give God everything? You tell Him all your emotions, thoughts, and fears. You let go of self-pity and make a firm decision that you are ready to move forward.

 2.         Don’t give up – PUSH! Push past this one last hurdle. Lay down your brokenness at the cross and walk away beautiful. This does not mean you never think about it again or that consequences will not occur, but any time negative thoughts come up, you replace them with God’s promises. You let go of the victim mentality. You are no longer a victim, you are the VICTOR! If you are holding onto your own sin, then embrace the mercy and grace of the cross. Apply the blood of Christ to your situation and let go of guilt. 

3.         Live life – In order to move beyond your past, you have to begin living again. Do not just live to make it through another day. Live and get the most out of every day. Begin to do fun things. If you are already doing them, do not feel guilty for enjoying life. Realize that life will have its ups and downs and do not remain stuck. God wants to do amazing things through you. You may not understand the situation, but know that God does. Don’t become stuck in misunderstanding. Just live today and let tomorrow happen when it arrives.

Hope only comes when you are willing to take off the grave cloths and allow full life to flow to you and through you again. This is part of the process of healing from brokenness and your past. You serve a good God Who loves you very much. You have to continue in that belief and move forward. Jesus came to give you life – more abundantly. Walk in that and shake off the grave clothes that bind you.


Kristi Lemley is an ordained minister, speaker, author, counselor and licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is the founder of Living in the Light Ministries, an international ministry focused on helping people deal with daily life struggles, and heal from their past hurts by experiencing the freedom and truth of the Gospel. Her latest book and bible study is entitled Broken and Transformed: Moving beyond life’s difficult times.

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