The Grace of Hindsight

by Aaron Dunlop

hindsight-rear-view-future-past-road-mirrorWe have all looked back over a particularly difficult situation, months or perhaps years later, and smiled. We can do this because we see the circumstances of that period of time from the viewpoint of a different situation. We call this hindsight and with it we see a past situation in “normal vision”—20/20. We have more information, clearer emotional perception, and we have discovered that the end was not as bad as we expected it would be, or that good came out of a very bad situation. In hindsight we view a period of time—a given situation—from a moment of present time.

Psalm 114 is a remarkable declaration of hindsight. Verse 2 indicates that the psalm was written some time after David when there was a distinction made between the ten tribes to the north (Israel) and the two in the south (Judah). It is a unique psalm because it is a simple statement of facts. There are no complaints, no prayers, no prophecies, no penitence, and no calls to praise the Lord—just facts of the past history of Israel between the exodus and the conquest (the wilderness years).

But it is how the psalmist interprets these facts that is significant and from which we can extract great encouragement in what I am calling the grace of hindsight. For those who experienced the wilderness wanderings it was a time of great uncertainty, fear, and consequent faithlessness. The psalmist, however, looks back and sees it as a time of “the presence of the Lord” when there were powerful evidences of that presence in the turning back of the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordon, etc. How often have we lived in fear and anxiety through a particular situation, all the while blind to the fact that the Lord was working through us, for us, and all around us. Psalm 114 shows us that nothing can resist the power of God’s presence (the sea fled, verse 5) and that anything can be sanctified for our good (the rock was turn to water, verse 8). God can make that flinty resistance into a fluid and refreshing experience if we have faith to believe (verse 8).

Have we not also in a difficult situation said with a sort of prophetic hope, “Someday we will look back and smile at all of this.” We are looking forward to a time when we will look back in hindsight. But wait a minute, is this not how we are to view all our circumstances—through the eyes of Him who has already “declar[ed] the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). By faith we ought to view all of our life as those who have a home already “eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

We know the end of the story and that all things will work out in the end according to the pleasure of Him who loves us (Isaiah 46:10). But we know not only that all things will in the end work out, but that even now in the present, all things are “working together for good” (Romans 8:28).

According to Hebrews 11:1 faith is viewing life from the conclusion and living it in hindsight. Let us dwell with Him who is victorious and who alone gives us grace to enjoy the substance of things hoped for. This is the faith of the patriarchs, who not having received the promises, saw them afar off and embraced them (Hebrews 11:13).

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”Martin Luther

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