How to Manage Painful Memories and Live with Joy

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A photo, a smell, a melody . . . can trigger painful memories and emotions but with God's help, you and I don't have to relive the pain repeatedly. #CountingMyBlessings #Memories #Livewithjoy #Faith

A photo, a smell, a melody . . . can trigger a memory and emotion.

I’m an emotional Sanguine. So, my memories always come with an attached emotion.

If fact, when Rev asks me if I remember an occasion, event, or travel experience my usual response is, “I don’t know, did I cry.”

Happy tears. Sad tears. It doesn’t matter.

Emotions make imprints on my heart and mind.

We all carry around a sack full of emotional memories. Some are good memories, some bad or even painful, some are thrilling and a few may even be frightening

The truth is … memories have the power to make us smile or sit down for a good ol’ cry.

Each memory imprinted on our hearts and minds becomes part of us and like it or not … influence our beliefs and attitudes.

And that’s where we need to be careful.


If you and I allow our memories too much influence over our present or future . . . we have a problem.

Because things like our feelings and opinions, the people involved, and even our physical circumstances have the ability to affect and distort them.

Every memory we have is filtered through a lens of our own personal perspective.

That’s one of the reasons why eyewitnesses can have completely different stories when giving detailed accounts of an event.

Emotions and past experiences will always influence our perspectives, perceptions, and therefore, our memories.

So, let me ask you…

What do you think influences your memories the most?

Christian Psychologist, David Seamands said,

We cannot change our memories, but we can change their meaning and the power they have over us.

With God’s help, you and I can control what we think about our memories and we can refuse to give them the power to control attitudes, opinions, and even our emotions.

Have you ever had a day ruined because you were unable to shake an unpleasant memory? Or had a perfectly good experience deteriorate because an unexpected unpleasant past moment popped to mind?

Yep, me too!

But I’m learning…

With God’s help, you and I don’t have to let our memories mess with our today or our tomorrow.

A photo, a smell, a melody . . . can trigger painful memories and emotions but with God's help, you and I don't have to relive the pain repeatedly. #CountingMyBlessings #Memories #Livewithjoy #Faith

How to Manage Painful Memories and Live with Joy

1. Make a list of the painful memories.

The people, experiences, and thoughts that make it hard for you to maintain your daily joy. It’s not a pleasant process but knowing what thoughts are likely to steal your joy is the beginning of stopping them before they take over. AND you can even burn or shred it when you’re done as an intentional act of letting them go.

We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

God is greater than your memories and He is able to help you focus on better things.

2. Identify the emotions you’ve attached to your memories.

Especially the joy stealers. Ask the why behind your feelings and challenge yourself to question whether or not you’re allowing your personal filter to distort the truth.

Then lay those painful feelings and emotions at the foot of the cross and ask the Lord to deliver you from your painful past.

I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:4

3. Accept that not everyone remembers things the same way.

Everyone filters their memories through a very personalized lens. It’s important to admit and accept that the other people in your memory may not remember things the same way you do. And that’s okay.

Accept that it’s no longer about right or wrong and choose to forgive and love.

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

4. You may not be able to change your memories but you can change the power your memories have over you.

With God’s help, you and I can have the peace we need to move on.

Forgiving does not erase a bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. ~Lewis Smedes

5. Pray!

Ask God to give you everything you need to manage your memories and your attitude.

Believe God’s word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.” ~Samuel Rutherford

6. Keep a notebook/journal/jar of happy memories. 

Keep it where family members can write their favorite memory of the day or week and read through them together each month. Then save your favorites to read to one another on New Year’s Eve.

“When you cannot rejoice in feelings, circumstances or conditions, rejoice in the Lord.” ~A.B.Simpson

7. Improve your Emotional Quotient.

Practice identifying your feelings and managing them. I’ve discovered it’s something that is crucial for crucial to my success and happiness. I read recently that people with high EQ’s make the best employees … so, what have you got to lose?

Don’t run from your emotions … good or bad they are part of who you are. When you and I learn how to manage them we can use them for success.

I remember the days gone by;
    I think about all that you have done,
    I bring to mind all your deeds.
I lift up my hands to you in prayer;
    like dry ground my soul is thirsty for you.

Psalm 143:5–6 (GNT)

Finally – Make new memories! 

Be intentional about making lots of happy memories.

Everyone has painful memories but it really is possible to make plenty of positive memories to overshadow the difficult ones. I promise … I’ve been there!

Rev and I have one date in particular that has painful memories attached to it. So we intentionally do things that day to make new happy memories. We even picked up our puppy, Sadie, on that particular date so we’d have something happy to remember each time that date rolls around.

A photo, a smell, a melody . . . can trigger painful memories and emotions but with God's help, you and I don't have to relive the pain repeatedly. #CountingMyBlessings #Memories #Livewithjoy #Faith

Remember – memories will pop up when you least expect them. It’s okay. Just like fear or many other hard emotions … make every effort to make those painful memories infrequent and short-lived. Don’t have to let them control you.

Sing a praise song, pray, and speak a verse out loud. My favorite is…

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.

Psalm 73:26

With God’s help, you and I have the power to we need to live with joy … intentionally focused on happy memories and blessings.

A prayer for God’s help with emotion management.

Father, by Your grace, help me manage my emotions. Painful memories and their attached emotions are a part of my life but with Your help, I believe I can release the pain and live with joy. Please help me to focus on my blessings as I surrender my past painful memories to Your love and grace. In Jesus name. Amen. 

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  1. Such a great concept to learn to “manage” our emotions with God’s help so they don’t manage us! Lots of great quotes here, too! Thanks for sharing and hosting.

  2. I constantly do that on your site. I don’t always get to read and comment to same day and when I do, I realize I’m reading another post. LOL

  3. This is a beautiful post, Deb. I’m sharing it this weekend on FB and Twitter for those who have painful memories on Father’s Day.