I don’t have the best memory. At least, my long-term memory tends to fail me. People will remind me of things that happened in my past or of things I used to study and I’ll nod a bit, but inside I’m scrambling to remember those details. But short-term memory – that’s a different story.
When I was younger, memorizing Scripture to get that all-important sticker (the very best type of reward!) was relatively easy, but with only a few exceptions, I don’t recall many of those verses. In school I aced tests because I could quickly memorize definitions and facts, but within a few months, that information slowly left and all that remained was a good grade on the report card.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with remembering. In fact, I know I’m not, because God constantly tells each and every one of us to remember – to remember Him, His works, His judgment, His love. We forget these things so quickly and so easily, and this has been true since the beginning. We forget, just like Adam and Eve in the Garden, like the Israelites in the Exodus, like the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, like the exiles on their way to Babylon – we all forget our God in one way or another, at one time or another. And that’s why our God patiently and constantly reminds us to remember.
Remember that you were once slaves to sin (Deut. 15:15).
Remember His Law (Mal. 4:4).
Remember His Covenant (1 Chron. 16:15).
Remember His works (Ps. 77:11).
Remember His sacrifice (Luke 22:19).
Forgetfulness in trials
One of my absolute favorite passages on remembrance, however, comes in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus had just been crucified and buried, and His disciples, at one time full of determination and devotion, are now struggling with defeat and depression. Everything they believed, everything they saw and heard from their Lord, seemed to die on that cross with Him.
The disciples probably could have aced any quiz on what Jesus had said and done – so many words of wisdom, so many challenging parables, so many miracles. From just the three years they had followed Him, they could have shared a wealth of stories about Jesus, enough for four Gospels … and then some (John 21:25)! But none of that mattered when they placed His body in the tomb. The future, full of promise just a week before, now appeared hopeless and bleak.
Part of me wants to stand in judgment of them, to grab them by the shoulders and shout, “Don’t you understand? Don’t you see? Resurrection is just around the corner!” But I have the benefit of seeing the true end of this story. I read it every Easter. The disciples only had their memories. But even with those memories, they still didn’t truly remember.
Remembering, as the Bible describes it, is a complicated concept to understand. We tend to think of it in terms of simple memory recall: where we left our keys, what year did we buy our house, what did our pastor preach on last week. But remembering is far more than that. Remembering involves action.
Think of what God does when He remembers. God remembered Noah, stranded on the ark in the midst of a water-covered world, and sent a wind to recede the waves (Gen. 8:1). God remembered Israel in the midst of slavery and sent them a deliverer (Ex. 2:24-25). God remembered Rachel, and other women in the Bible, by opening their wombs (Gen. 30.22).
Clearly, we are not God; our human remembering cannot bring about miracles and salvation. However, we still need to think of our remembering in active term, not just as a passive memory exercise. Remembering is taking the past – its covenants, its deliverances, its promises – and projecting it to the future; it is looking at the reality of what has happened and moving forward in faith towards what will come. It is the very essence of the already, not yet view of Scripture.
The disciples, like we so often do, failed to see this. All they could see was the very real, very painful present. The past no longer mattered, the future no longer held promise. How often do we see our own circumstances in this way! The tragedy strikes, the suffering begins, and suddenly there is just the here and now. When reality and faith collide, often the first casualty is remembrance.
We forget God’s promises. We cannot recall His power and love. We read our Bibles, but now it seems filled with confusing statements, contradictory claims, and condemnation. Even without life difficulties, we can struggle to understand the hard sayings of God, to reconcile verses that seem wrong, to trust His words when they don’t make sense to us.
And sometimes we, like Peter, stand up and tell our Lord that His words are lies. We tell Him that pain and suffering cannot be the way of salvation. We tell Him that because we do not understand, therefore His words cannot be true.
Yet even then – remember.
An exercise in trust
Remembering does not mean we will understand completely. Remembering, for us, is trust. Know what God has done before and know that He will do it again, in His own time and in His own way – a time and way that are far, far better than anything we could have dreamed up.
There is no way the disciples could have dreamt of two angels, sitting before the empty tomb, urging the mourners to abandon their fear and sorrow:
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’
And they remembered His words.” (Luke 24:5-8, ESV, emphasis mine)
Oh, how that must have brought relief to the very depths of their soul! To remember! To realize that everything that Jesus had spoken of was bigger and better than their imagination! And remembering sprung them into action. They ran to tell the rest of Jesus’ followers the good news.
Believing this good news proved difficult for some. They marveled at the sight of the empty tomb, and listened skeptically to the stories they were told. And we too can struggle to trust these seemingly outrageous claims. Death leads to life? The sacrifice of one Man leads to salvation? Sin no longer reigns over us?
We debate these things amongst ourselves, pondering the meaning of it as we journey together, striving to make sense of it all. And that is when Jesus comes in, walking beside us, even if we are not fully aware of His presence and His Spirit’s guidance. As we fill our hearts and minds with the stories of redemption, deliverance, and salvation, as we read His Word from Genesis to Revelation, we can see – we can remember – what has happened and what will happen. We can realize how everything, from Moses to the prophets, pointed to our Savior (Luke 24:25-27).
We can marvel at how many seemingly insignificant details in these stories were a microcosm of the True Word who was to come! We can look forward to the day when all things are made new and we can live fully in the presence of our Heavenly Father!
Read God’s Word
Dear friends, fill your hearts and minds with the Word of God! Soak in the truth of His voice! When the difficulties come, when all seems lost, when you struggle to comprehend what is happening, then let the light of His Word illuminate the darkness. Will you always understand what He says? No. Will you always understand your circumstances? No. But even if we cannot comprehend His ways, even as we may fail to truly remember, we can take heart because our God always remembers us.
Our God is the same today, yesterday, and forever (Heb. 13:8); the same God who remembered Noah, Moses, Rachel, and countless others in the Scriptures remembers you. Read His Word to know this about Him, to know His loving character. As you read, you will realize more and more that He is a God who delights to use the weak things of this world to show His strength, to see that He is a God who creates light out of nothing, to understand that death is no obstacle to His glory and victory.