For the last couple of days, we’ve looked together at the unique ways God made you—how he planned every day of your life before you were born and how he gave you your own unique SHAPE—Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences.

But sometimes, even knowing God formed you intentionally and uniquely, you may find yourself not knowing how to move forward in ministry or life in general. Maybe, when you think about the future, you feel more confusion and less joy.

If this describes you, it might be because you’ve forgotten the advice the Bible gives in Galatians 6:4: “Let each person examine his own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself with someone else” (CSB).

The Bible gives two-part guidance here. First, you should “examine [your] own work.” In other words, you should look at your past and learn from it.

Next, you should “not compare [yourself] with someone else.” As you examine your own life, don’t let your eyes wander to how God is working in people around you. Concentrate on what he’s done in and through you.

There are plenty of reasons not to compare yourself to other people. One, you will always be able to find someone who seems to be doing a better job than you and you will become discouraged. Two, you will always be able to find someone who doesn’t seem as effective as you and you will become prideful. Either attitude will rob you of your joy.

God has a better way for you to discover the next steps on his path for you. He wants you to take a close look at your past to help you move into your future.

That’s right—God doesn’t want you to waste your past. God wants to use it.

But sometimes it can be hard to know how to look back effectively over your own life. Here’s one easy exercise to get you started:

Take a half-hour this week. Sit down with a piece of paper. Separate it with a line for each period of your life. You could decide to divide your life into five-year periods, or into decades.

Now it’s time to “examine [your] own work” by creating a life inventory.

Answer these two questions for each time period of your life: What were you good at doing? What did you enjoy doing?

Now go back and look for patterns. If you were good at something when you were younger, you probably still are. Maybe there’s something you enjoyed a few years ago that you have forgotten about.

After you’ve identified patterns in your life, ask God what he wants you to do with this information.

As today’s passage in Galatians says, God might show you things in your past that you can celebrate and be proud of. And seeing patterns of what you’ve been good at and enjoyed throughout your life can help you know how God might want to work through you in the future.

Don’t let yourself get caught in a trap of comparison. Instead, take an honest look at your own past. And then step forward with confidence into your future.