How to Stop Dwelling on the Past {And Start Moving Forward!}

title how to stop dwelling on the past


Are you ready to learn how to stop dwelling on the past? Wanna let the past go and start moving forward? Get ready to learn 7 steps to really let go of the past for good!

Dwelling on the Past

Do you have something that haunts your mind? Your day is humming along, then that thing pops up again? If only it went away as quickly as it turned up. It’s that memory that’s hard to shake. The memory lingers. You try to busy yourself, but it doesn’t work. This memory distracts, discourages and leaves you feeling tired and defeated. You don’t want to, but you find yourself dwelling on the past… Again. Dwelling on the past keeps us chained to the past. Chains are not part of God’s purpose for His dearly loved children.

Dwelling on the past keeps us chained to the past. Chains are not part of God's purpose for His dearly loved children. Click To Tweet

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” ~2 Corinthians 3:17

I get asked often… How can I forget the past? My answer? You can’t. You won’t. But dwelling on the past is different than recalling it. Dwelling literally means a place you take up residence. You post up there, living in the memory. Why do we dwell on the past? Most commonly, the object of dwelling is sin. Maybe it’s our own sin we can’t shake. The sin of others can have a profound effect on our lives, as well. And finally, it can be the random brokenness of the world around us that collided with our life.

Sometimes we fear getting hurt again. It’s possible that a lack of forgiveness keeps us circling the same hillside. Maybe you don’t know the promises of God or don’t believe they are for you specifically. Maybe the past hasn’t been healed fully.

Stuck in the past is right where the enemy wants you. See, if your eyes are on the past you’re distracted from the calling on your life today. Focusing on the past also leaves you robbed of hope for the future.

Whatever the reasons you find yourself dwelling on the past, know this…Dwelling on the past doesn’t heal the past.

Dwelling on the past doesn't heal the past. Click To Tweet

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~Galatians 5:1

The Difference Between Dwelling and Recalling: A New Perspective

Dwelling is a place you remain stagnant. When dwelling on an unpleasant memory, feelings of discouragement and defeat show up. The longer you dwell there the more helpless you feel. You may start to identify yourself as a victim of circumstance with no control.

Recalling an unpleasant memory is lighter. As the memory comes into focus you can reflect on how you’ve grown since then. Your heart is full of gratitude as you look back and see God’s faithfulness. You’re reminded that you’re stronger now in every way. You. Are. Victorious.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~1 Corinthians 15:57

Problems with Dwelling on the Past

  1. Dwelling on the past robs us of peace and joy now (1st Peter 5:8).
  2. Rather than keeping our eyes looking up, fixed on Christ, we shift our perspective to what is around us (Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 2:10).
  3. We are not living in our God-given identity through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 8:17).

How to Stop Dwelling on the Past

1.Replace the negative thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

Dwelling tends to focus on what was lost rather than what was gained. Start there- make a list of what you learned, how you have changed and how you can encourage others as a result.

2.Renew your mind with Scripture (Romans 12:2).

God’s Word has incredible power (2 Timothy 3:16) for transforming our minds. Memorize His promises and recall them. Jesus used the Word of God when tempted in the wilderness to strengthen Him. We can also use God’s Word when tempted to dwell on the past.

3.Depend on God in prayer (Isaiah 41:13).

He delights to give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4) and always answers with a yes when our requests line up with His will (1 John 5:14-15). Entrust it to the Most High.

4.Honestly evaluate if there is an issue of unforgiveness.

Check out the complete guide to forgive here.

5.Refocus on gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I love when research lines up with what God’s Word has been telling us. Researchers indicate that an attitude of gratitude can increase our joy by about 25% (more on that here). So make it a habit to count your blessings.

6.Sometimes the past hasn’t been fully faced, processed and healed.

Putting our painful past into words, whether in person or writing is powerful. It’s shedding light on darkness. Begin journaling to heal those past hurts and move forward.

7.Trusting God to do what His Word promises takes practice.

As we step out and trust God, we get to see His trustworthiness firsthand. Trust begets trust! Let it go and know God’s got this (Psalm 46:10).

Dwelling on the Past: Wrap-up

Dwelling on the past keeps us chained to it. There are many different reasons that keep us stuck in the past. But, dwelling on the past will not heal it. Instead of dwelling on the past, we can recall the past with a new perspective. It’s time to let go of the past and start moving forward. Here’s how…

Replace any negative thoughts with a new pattern of thinking. Renewing your mind with Scripture. Use the struggle to turn toward God in dependence on Him in prayer. Determine if unforgiveness is at the root of dwelling on the past and take action. Refocus on gratitude, giving thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances. Make sure the past has been fully faced processed and healed. And finally trust the promises of God as you turn away from the past and toward His promises.

Are you dwelling on the past? What will it take to let go of the past ad start moving forward?


  1. Dorothy Kaniaru on January 12, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    Thats a blessings word am blessed

    • Sunshyne on January 18, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      Thank you Dorothy, so glad to have you stop by:)

      • gwbish on November 21, 2022 at 5:25 am

        The past can humble us but it must never haunt us.

  2. Karen Kalasy on June 20, 2019 at 11:33 am

    I have been having CBT secular therapy and past hurts and trauma is arising. The therapist wants to do the empty chair exercise imagine that person who hurt u and speak out. I am a born again Christian.. What do u think? Thanks Karen Kalasy.

    • Sunshyne on July 3, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Karen, I’m aware of that technique. I don’t use it because I don’t find it to be beneficial. I like journaling in an effort to process the pain of the past as well as discuss the journaling in sessions. I have an outline for such a journal for free in the resource library. You can sign up from any article on my site (scroll down to the bottom if your on your phone). Hope that helps.

      • Mari on August 13, 2019 at 12:06 pm

        Hey sunshyne, what do you do with torment, and the lies of the enemy of the past, it’s like they are screaming at me, especially from the one who you love so much?

        • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:07 am

          Hi Mari, Thank you for reaching out. I’m not sure what you meant by “the one who you love so much”-so I can’t speak to that. But, regarding the lies of the enemy of the past…Taking thoughts captive would be the best place to start. Check out this article… This is my best article that lays out the whole process. Praying for you now.

        • Fern on October 25, 2020 at 3:20 pm

          I can identify with what your saying… are you saying the enemy is triggering you with words that come from your husband or children in the hear and now .. but they are words frazes or actions that take you to your past.

  3. Jennifer Parrish on June 30, 2019 at 6:13 am

    I will be 62 in about a month
    I am in the process of divorce with my husband of 43 years. I can’t stop crying and hurting. Just need help with coping and overcoming the pain.

  4. […] First, be prayerful (Matthew 5:44) and treat the person who hurt you with love and goodness (Romans 12:9). Don’t speak poorly of you the person who hurt you (Romans 12:14). Treat the one who hurt you the way you want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Finally, make the choice to stop dwelling on the offense (Isaiah 43:18) more on that here. […]

  5. […] Dwelling on the past […]

  6. […] has forgiven and forgotten. Yet, here we are, dwelling on the past (more on that here) and stubbornly refusing to forgive ourselves and move […]

  7. Lee Ann Rinderer on April 24, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    I know I am a Christian but I want to feel the light more and be happier. I suffer from ptsd and relive the past. How can I move onto the future and not think of the past so much?

    • Sunshyne Gray on April 24, 2020 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Lee Ann, that is a great question. You might consider processing the past more. A therapist can help you through that or if that is not an option, simply journaling can be beneficial. I would seek a counselor that can provide a more individualized help with journaling.

  8. Janice on October 22, 2020 at 3:45 am

    I have a 17 yr old daughter who has been treated poorly in the past, in my opinion, from an exboyfriend. He’s apologized and said he’s sought God and has been baptized. After she broke up with another boyfriend, she apologized to this ex for her mistakes and they are now being friends again but I am struggling trusting him again and really dont want her to blindly trust…but she tells me I am the one with a forgiveness problem. I am just afraid of bad character traits repeating and her getting hurt again. I feel I need to back off but I really dont even want him in my house. Advice?

  9. Lynn Gentry on May 20, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    Not dwelling on my past also means giving up hope that I’ll get to have relationships with my kids again.
    I miss them so bad, and my grandkids, and I don’t understand why I was forced to choose.

  10. Michael Cialone on May 10, 2023 at 4:56 pm

    Please eliminate the the rural Deep South USA slang words like “gonna”.

  11. […] and negative experiences of the past. It involves accepting that the past cannot be changed and choosing not to dwell on it or allow it to define one’s present or future. Rather, let the promises and character […]

  12. Alexander on October 9, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    My past failures and mistakes have always haunted me, I’ve learned so much from them, but it pains me and the pain and regret makes me so angry because I can’t go back and correct all the errors and right all of the wrongs I have done, I pray that god’s promises come true and that he grants me peace and hope again and that my past will no longer haunt me, and I can make up for everything in the future and I pray for better days ahead of me if anyone is hearing this, please I really need an explanation and advice

    • Eberechukwu (the one God showed mercy) on January 15, 2024 at 8:52 pm

      I wear stuck in this same rut through the last quarter of 2023, and here is what I did…Constantly feeding my mind with the word and crying to God for help as many times as I had reasons to hate myself and feel shame and guilt. I prayed at every time my heart gave in to the negative emotions of shame, guilt and self loathing. Secondly, I sort for restitution. I had to seek the forgiveness of the one whom I had hurt beyond measures, thankfully he is one is loves and trust God.

      Alexander it was a long and nerve wrenching process, but this is Jan 16th 2024, but it no longer hurts as it did on the 25th of Dec. 2023. God’s words give life. Hold onto it, study your bible or constantly listen to messages of mercy on YouTube or Podcasts. Constantly feed your mind with the word, leave no space for the conviction of the enemy. And God will come through for you. Honestly I never used to believe this but, I can tell you of a truth, that God will work in you, and walk you through anything no matter how dark you think your situation is if you let me. I can bet my life on it .

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