Getting Beyond “If Only”

 There is rarely…

anything good about being a hostage. I have been kidnapped by friends a few times in my life with the intended outcome of experiencing something special. But being a hostage mostly has a negative connotation and few of us enjoy being controlled by anything or anyone.

God designed us to be dominators and never to be dominated. God sent Christ to be our freedom fighter and to set us free. Satan and his forces have a totally opposite strategy for us. They desire to bound us up and keep us in bondage. Satan searches our hearts, thoughts and behaviors in hoping to find an entrance to capture us and make us a hostage.

The word “hostage” is defined as a person controlled by or captivated by a past or present event, situation, or pattern of thought. A hostage is a person that is ensnared, enslaved, or taken captive by an intruder or enemy.

All of us have enemies that cannot be seen with the physical eye. They reign in our mind and hearts. They find their permission to trespass on our lives through our struggles, circumstances, and issues. These struggles range from childhood trauma to severe adult tragedy.

I have found the enemy uses our broken places to find a place to reign and rule. This includes our hurts, hang-ups and our unhealed emotions.

Many of us live with thoughts that imprison our soul and engage our darkest emotions. I call these thought predators “hostage takers.” When we yield to the traps and suggestions of the enemy we become ensnared by their planted thoughts and evil methods.

In Numbers 14 the children of Israel display behavior that resonates my point.

Numbers 14: 1-2

“So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt!”

Can you imagine…

coming to the point in your life where you just wish you were dead? Maybe you have been there. This is a perfect example of the strategy of the enemy. This situation was manageable and there was hope. But the enemy makes it an all or nothing moment.

We often open the door to the enemy by allowing all or nothing moments into our life. What do I mean? I mean that when we set God an immediate ultimatum to answer our need we set ourselves up for failure.   I wonder how often we forfeit God’s promises and allow our circumstances to determine our condition. Your condition is never your permanent position. They were in a temporary condition and were determined to make a permanent decision.

Let’s look deeper.

Numbers 14:3-4

3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and” go back to the place where we were before to the good old days.

Sometimes we think the good old days are better. This is a trap. An open door to be taken as a hostage.

The “If Only” Folk

We are often held hostage by the “if only’s.” If only I hadn’t taken that job. If only I hadn’t married that deadbeat. If only I hadn’t done that. If only I would have graduated from college.

Along with the “if only’s” we have an enemy who keeps us so focused on the shoulda, woulda, or coulda’s. The enemy convinces our minds and our hearts that everything should be better. This is a trap of the enemy and his full intention is to control us and to take us captive and eventually to make us his hostage.

He tempts us to rehearse decisions that we’ve made, opportunities that we’ve missed, and things we’ve failed to act on. And the enemy also tries to convince us of missed opportunities. He keeps us so focused on the negatives that we have a tendency to go back. Back to the old and the familiar.

This makes us a hostage to our past. We also have the tendency to treat the symptoms of our struggles and ignore the cause.

We treat the anger. We treat the depression. We treat the frustration. We treat all of the symptoms and never get to the real problem. Oftentimes situations come into our lives that take us hostage and we keep treating an external symptom when God is saying it is an internal problem.

We must discover why we drink not because we drink. We must find out why we’re mad not because we’re mad. You can develop a permanent disease called pastitis. If we put pastitis together, it means something progressive. But if you break it apart, it literally means past-it-is.

We must discover the inward truth. We don’t have to live in the “if onlys”, we can live in God’s destiny and purpose.

Chuck Swindoll so elegantly said, “Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how we react to what happens.”

We are people filled with the Holy Spirit. We are people empowered by God. And like the children of Israel, if we look over our shoulders, if we drive by our rearview mirror, our lives will be frozen like a snapshot in a frame of time that cripples us. This type of action will hinder us from moving into our future.

No longer slaves

The children of Israel in Numbers 14 are no longer slaves. They have been set free. They were no longer in bondage to the Egyptians. They were totally removed from their former situation.” They are completely removed from their past struggles.

They were set free from slavery for months yet their hearts we’re still caught up in the past. God had shown them a variety of ways to show his power. He had provided for them in every way. They had a covering by day and a fire by night.

Like us, they were given promises, power, and authority. We have been given everything we need to that pertains to life and godliness, but the enemy wants to keep us a victim of our past.

If we are saved then we are not a slave. We may live like a slave and certainly so if we allow our self to become hostage to a slave mentality. This means we are a hostage in our mind. Some things in our past cannot change, but we can get beyond. Some things in life we cannot stop, but you can stop how we respond to them.

But even though we struggle with certain areas they do not have to control us. They never have the power to permanently damage your life. The children of Israel were in a new place!   They were removed from their slavery but they were not removed from their old mindset.

Attention Takers

We often allow the enemy to breath big lies into our hearts and mind. Now catch this. Remember when they asked why they did not just go ahead and die in the wilderness? I say they died! Let me tell you why. Because when your life is so miserable that your vision is not greater than your past, you’re already dead inside.

Maybe you are a hostage is such a way that your life is frozen in a snapshot of time that keeps you stifled because you are crippled to move forward. So crippled that you have no vision for your future. A person without a vision will live in or return to their past.

When we live in the past it’s like driving our car through the rearview mirror. If we do that, we will eventually crash. You cannot drive your car forward by looking backwards.

Yes, we all have a past. We all have things we do not understand. We all have struggles. But I’m here to tell you that we also have a God that heals. We also have a God that’s greater than our disappointment. We have a God that’s greater than anything we have ever experienced or anything that you are currently facing.

We can be healed. We can get beyond your pain. We can certainly get beyond our “if onlys”. But we must begin to discover God’s truth that sets us free!

Build your future

Leonard Sweet was rightly said;The future is not something we enter. It is something we create.” We must build our future so big you can’t help but chase it. Make God so big that everything around you is meaningless

George Orwell said this “He who controls the past, controls the future. And he who controls the present has control of the past.” The key to your present joy, your present healing, and your present wholeness is because you have learned to get past your past.

The apostle Paul said one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind. He’s talking about the negative things. He’s talking about the things that held him hostage.

God wants our vision to be big. God wants us to factor Him into every problem. God doesn’t want us to be victims or overwhelmed by situations of our past. God wants us moving forward, reaching for Him, and designing our life by His intended purpose.

We have the opportunity to design our life through controlling our thoughts and decisions, and realizing that we can get past our past. God wants to raise up a people that live victoriously and powerfully. A people who know who they are in Christ.

Choose life and you can live hostage free!




About the author : Thomas McDaniels

Thomas McDaniels

Pastor Thomas hosts The Pastors Life Blog at He is the Founding and Lead Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Center in Longview, Texas. Pastor Thomas is an author, blogger, and an avid Twitter contributor. You can also connect with him at Twitter at

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