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Don't Forget to Remember

Written by Stephen Buckley

Sometimes, during seasons when I’m discouraged, I spend time cruising down Memory Lane. But this isn’t an exercise in nostalgia. It is an exercise in faith-building.

I might take a walk and recall the times God directed my journey even though I was buffeted by uncertainty and doubt. I consider all the people he brought into my path, people of wisdom and faith who encouraged, instructed, and inspired me. I rejoice again in the many, many answers to specific prayers. I remember all the times he kindly, and sometimes painfully, corrected and restored me. I think of the miraculous ways he has provided.

In the Old Testament, God implores His people to remember the wondrous ways he has come through for them, but they often do just the opposite: They forget. And when they do, he is disappointed and angry. He knows what they are missing.

We are a lot like those Israelites.

Remembering is a challenging habit to cultivate in our age, when so much of what we see and say can vanish with a keystroke. No need to memorize passwords; we just save them. Those hundreds of texts and photos we receive in a given week or month? We can make those go away in a few minutes. We’re bombarded with today’s urgent news story, only for it to be overwhelmed by the next day’s urgent news story. The internet never forgets, the saying goes. Truth is, the internet doesn’t remember much either. Neither do we.

Many biblical heroes practiced the ritual of grateful remembrance. Jacob built a memorial to God after his life-changing vision, and Joshua set one up after God’s people crossed the Jordan River. Samuel commemorated Israel’s victory over the Philistines, and David and other psalmists exhorted the Israelites to recall how God delivered them from the Egyptians.

There is a reason the psalmists had to do that. Like us, the Israelites did not reflexively remember. Like us, they secured their blessing and moved on, their memory blurred by pride and the distractions of daily life.

Remembering takes intention. In our busyness, we often ricochet from one activity to another without giving much thought to the why or worth of our actions. This may be why my habit of recalling God’s goodness typically kicks in when I’m buckled by stress and anxiety. Moments of crisis slow me down and force me to look up. And when I do that, I remember.

Remembering also takes time. It is hard to think about all the ways God has shown up for us if we don’t make the space for it. We live in a world of action and progress, so the work of mining memory can feel like a waste. And yet God did not simply suggest that the Israelites remember his goodness. He commanded it.

Some of us think God hasn’t done much for us. Maybe we have served Christ a long time, and we can’t recall many Red Sea moments, or we have yet to endure a wilderness season. There is at least one thing, though, to remember with joy and thanksgiving: the power and miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Jesus told his disciples, “…[D]o not rejoice at this, that the spirits that subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Paul told the Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we can need?” And the writer of Hebrews urged us to recall Christ’s anguished victory on the cross and his exalted station now at the right hand of the Father: “Study how he did it….When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long list of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

When we doubt God’s goodness, recalling Christ’s work on the cross is the perfect antidote. It provides peace and perspective, as is the case whenever we ponder the innumerable ways God has displayed His faithfulness. The habit of remembering reminds us that the God of yesterday doesn’t change. We can trust in his abundance grace and kindness today, tomorrow—and forever.

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