When You Need To Remember

Originally published Wednesday, 24 July 2013.

We once lived at the very top of a mountain in northern Georgia. From November to March it was dreary, dull, and gray. The fog draped the mountain in a heavy blanket of mist and rarely lifted. It was so thick sometimes you couldn't see beyond a foot in front of you. The sky was dark and rainy and went on like that for months. We sometimes wondered if we would ever see the sun again.

The psalmist in Psalm 77 felt that way about the heavy hand God had placed on Israel. "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?" (vs. 7-9)

I have often felt the same. When the storms of life have bombarded me and I've prayed over and over for help and God has not answered, I've wondered with the psalmist, "Has God forgotten to be merciful?" Like the mountain fog, I've wondered if I would ever see the light of his grace again.

The Psalms always speak exactly to what is going on in my heart. But it doesn't leave me hanging with questions and overwhelming emotions. I'm always directed to the truth. The psalmist voices his thoughts and overwhelming feelings but then returns to what he knows to be true. And in this Psalm, the writer speaks to himself, pointing him away from his emotional turmoil and to God himself. "Then I thought, 'To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.' I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds." (v.10) He goes on to remember how God freed his people from slavery in Egypt, of his power and might in opening the sea.

Each year on that mountain we were expectant for the sun to reappear because time and time again it always did. When our heart is broken and God seems far, we need to remember who he is. God never changes, we do. He is always the same. When he makes promises, he keeps them. He's always on time, never slow in helping us, and never fails to do what he says he will do. Like the psalmist, we can look back to all he has done for us in the past and know with confidence that he is a God who can be trusted. His faithfulness in the past is what we lean on as we wait for him to move in the present.

I don't know about you, but I am so forgetful! When a cloud of sorrow hangs over my head, I forget what the warmth of the sun is like. I fail to remember that God does indeed care and that he cared so much he did something about it. He sent his own Son to this world, who took on the very same flesh as we, and who experienced the pain and sorrows of this sin stained world. Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not live. He became the complete sacrifice to once and for all take away our sin. Jesus endured God's full wrath in our place and experienced the separation from the Father that we deserved. This is the story of our redemption, and like Israel's redemption from slavery, it is the story we look back to when we need to remember the depths of love God has for us.

So when it seems like he is not there, and it feels like he has forgotten us, we need to remember what he has done. Like the psalmist, we need to meditate on his works and his mighty deeds. We need to focus our heart on his great love for us in Christ. In fact, this needs to become a daily exercise where we preach to ourselves the truth of all God has done. Each day we need to remember and reflect on how God freed us from our own slavery. It's in remembering that we are able to trust in God's goodness and love, even when the fog is thick and the light a fading memory.

Because the truth is, no matter how long the clouds linger, the sun is always shining overhead.