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Putting Your Past in Its Place

Book Review

How do I, as a Christian, handle a past that is painful, full of hurt and deception, and hard to forget?

Jul 29, 2021

Everyone has a past. Some are stormier than others. Some common questions related to the past are: How do I as a Christian handle a past that is very painful, full of hurt and deception, and hard to forget and move on? How do I as a Christian break free and live in the freedom of forgiveness and joy in Christ? How do I move on in Christian love and become more like Christ in my life? The book Putting Your Past in Its Place: Moving Forward in Freedom and Forgiveness by Steve Viars helps to critically look at your past and analyze the events and issues that brought you to where you are today. This book is very helpful in counseling. Personally, I have used this book several times to help my counselees get the big picture of their lives through the lens of Scripture. This allows them to take stock of where they are today and help them to deal with their past in a very healthy, God-honoring manner.  

Steve Viars divides the past to four buckets: 

  1. Innocent past when you responded well,  
  1. Innocent past when you responded poorly,  
  1. Guilty past when you responded well, and 
  1. Guilty past when you responded poorly.  

By thoughtfully separating out your past and categorizing the responses that you had, you can respond properly to the past through prayer, repentance, and forgiveness.

In working with counselees, Dr. Viars states, “Issues of the heart cannot be ignored forever” (page 32). In my counseling practice and in my own life this is a true statement. It is critical to understand that “many men and women bear the scars of being sinned against in terrible ways” (page 35).  

This is why it is important to open up the hurtful sores and allow them to be drained. The past can function like an infection that corrupts the soul and needs to be addressed for complete healing. Through the power of Christ’s work in the counselee by the Holy Spirit, the past can be a great friend, instead of an enemy that fights to keep the counselee bound in sin, hurt, and pain. 

By systematically working through each chapter and looking up the Scripture references that Dr. Viars uses throughout the book, the counselee can get to the root of the problem God’s way. This gives light and hope to the counselee. When God’s Word lights the dark corners of his past, the counselee is able to see his sufferings and pain in relation to God’s master plan for his life and see that God is in control and has allowed these events to happen for the counselee’s benefit and God’s glory. 

This book has allowed my counselees, and even myself, to understand that suffering is a part of being a follower of Christ so we all can understand and take part in the sufferings of Christ. We can consider it a privilege to be counted worthy of suffering with Christ.  

Each chapter has questions for both personal reflection and group discussion. There are also case studies and “Case in Point” sections that contemplate situations that may have occurred in the counselee’s life that need to be addressed in greater detail so that the past can be dealt with once and for all. These sections take a hard look at the heart for inward reflection to weed out any unconfessed sin and poor responses that need be addressed.   

I highly recommend this book to be used in counseling whenever you have a counselee that is struggling with abuse, sexual sin, childhood trauma, addictions, or any other sin either committed against the counselee or by the counselee in the past. This book can be a starting point for a life free from the burden of the past so that the counselee can live a life worthy of the calling in Christ Jesus.  

Helpful Quotes 

  1. “Problems that go unresolved often have lingering effects” (page 37).  
  1. “The refusal to face sin with grief, brokenness and repentance is as old as the Garden of Eden” (page 39). 
  1. “The way you relate to your past will even affect how well you practice the all-important skill of forgiveness” (page 53). 
  1. “The possible ways an individual may have sinned in response to past mistreatment is seldom considered” (page 82).  
  1. “That the topics of suffering and the sustaining gospel intersect is a significant emphasis in the Word of God” (page 133). 
  1. “When we suffer, it is wise to thank God for the provision He made in Christ so that we do no have to suffer alone. Because of the reconciliation made possible through the blood of Jesus, those who have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord are given the privilege of drawing near to God” (page 134).