Humans are forgetful, whether it is because we repress the truth to create an alternate reality, avoid emotional triggers or are just too busy. It is interesting to consider what we forget and what we remember. Whatever the reason we are forgetful: Forgetful of God’s provision, God’s blessings, God’s answers to prayer.
Ps 103:2 says not to forget any of the Lord’s benefits and yet Is. 43:18 says to forget the past and don’t dwell on it. So how to reconcile these 2 verses?
The Bible is clear that we are not to forget. We are to remember because God remembers us first and because he remembers us he actively intervenes on our behalf. We are instructed to remember by hiding the Word in our heart, by gathering together, by sharing His works from one generation to another, by observing the Sabbath, the Lord’s Supper and the feast days. Memory is an important part of worship. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Remembering is good but like everything, if taken to extremes, can be dangerous. While it is possible to sin against God by forgetting the past, it is also possible to sin by remembering it in the wrong way! Don’t forget, but don’t dwell or live there. Nostalgia is something that in and of itself is not a bad thing; but it can become an idol and very unhealthy when it overwhelms life in the present by dwelling on the past experiences and the burden that those events are never going to come again, a kind of paralyzing regret that the best days are history. Because of prior grace the demand for the believer is hope. The best is yet to come. The future is too important to live in the past. Prior grace demands remembering and living in light of eternity. A theology of remembering the past is critical for the believer. The past is not for fueling disappointments, regrets, anger or grudges. The past was not given to us for such a misuse; rather it was given to us by God for gratitude, repentance, faith and wisdom.
Gratitude: We remember history as an ever-growing reservoir of God’s prior grace. It is for drinking in thankfulness and growing gratitude.
Repentance: We remember when we were separated from the Lord; we are never to forget what we are saved from because it is what leads to joyful living rather than entitlement.
Faith: We remember as a source of faith for the future. Romans 8:32 says how will God, who did not withhold His son in the past, Not give us all things in the future? When we don’t remember past grace, we don’t trust for future grace.
Wisdom: We can’t learn from what hasn’t happened yet. We can only learn from the past!
I think I have a pretty good memory and I worked hard to train and exercise it by hiding sections of scripture in my heart. There are not too many shortcuts, but memory begets memory. The more I memorized the more I was able to remember. And the opposite is true. Repetition every day ingrains the passage (or whatever it is I am memorizing) but when I don’t practice it for awhile I find that what I remembered so well fades away. Out of sight, out of mind. I think God knew this about human minds when he established the law, which is why he commands us to remember (by habit and discipline) the Sabbath to keep it holy. Week in and week out we repeatedly observe the Sabbath to etch on our hearts who God is. Remembering the Lord’s day regularly helps to remain aware and not to forget. Similarly, rituals, memorials and annual festivals encourage internalization and rehearsal.
There is a hymn, “Come Thou Fount”, that sings about “raising an Ebenezer.” Ebenezers in the Bible are stones that the Israelites constructed to mark significant battles and places where God met His people. For example, there were a pile of stones by the Jordan River to mark where God parted the water for them for the second time. Ebenezers are monuments to mark occasions when God shows up; they represent a physical reminder of what God has done in the past. The cross is a constant reminder that God is victorious!
Today, Ebenezers can be everywhere, thanks to social media, jewelry stores, trophies and homes with solid walls. As we trust God to show up again and again we can post on Facebook and they even send us reminders of our past memories. We can build a charm bracelet with reminders of God’s intervention, we can record our testaments in journals or on blogs, we can make scrapbooks or put our memories in frames. Our Ebenezers help us remember who God is and celebrate His faithfulness and lovingkindness. Our memories can intentionally reveal His presence, even when we didn’t realize it at the time! They free us to rely on Him today and in all of our tomorrows. Just as God has been faithful in the past, he will continue to bless and strengthen us in our daily lives and every day in the future!
I need this reminder to record my personal history and set up a personal Ebenezer Stone, naming the events and people of my life that demonstrate God’s hand at work through to this day. Remember and give thanks, repent, lean in and grow.
I write this as my own response to the teaching of Jon Lunde in Encouragement Inc. 9/25/16.
The secret of discipleship is to:
- recognize grace as a gift without assuming it
- receive grace by remembering and reliving prior grace
- respond daily to covenantal grace
- relying on the Spirit
“A pleasure is not full grown until it is remembered.” CS Lewis