Purposeful Remembering

Written by Norm Henry
From his column A Sound Mind

What we remember is interesting. Quite often, we forget the things we need to remember, but remember the things we need to forget.

Now, some people are amazing with remembering names. Most of us, however, struggle with this. We know we know them, their name is “on the tip of our tongue,” but we can’t retrieve it. We grasp at clues to recall. Any of you ever go through the alphabet trying to remember a name?

Still, sometimes we just can’t remember until later after we have stopped trying, and suddenly, the name is there! So, we say it aloud to ourselves (as others in the room look at us strangely). A few of us may actually take time to write it down in an effort to remember next time.

In days like these, we need to draw encouragement as we look back upon the times of God’s caring for us and for those we love.

Like names, there are memory verses from the Bible I recall and quote to myself—scriptures God has used to speak to me during crisis times, for example. However, many verses I have memorized are hard to recall. I need to rehearse them occasionally to refresh my memory. “Purposefully remembering” makes those verses and other bits of information more accessible when we need them. As I write this, the lyrics of the song "We Will Remember,” are playing in my mind.

The Israelites were instructed to remember God’s gracious activities, especially their deliverance from slavery. God instructed them to celebrate festivals of remembering, expressing gratitude for His gracious provision and intervention. They were to write them down, tell them to their children, and, at times, even use stones to help recall His steadfast love.

God’s first words in Exodus 20 have resonated in my soul: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out.” I know the context of that verse, but those words are meaningful to me as I purposefully remember the times God has delivered, provided, or healed in my own life.

Each Thanksgiving we sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Interestingly, the phrase “Great is thy faithfulness” comes from Lamentations, a book whose central theme is about finding justice in the face of suffering. In the midst of lamenting, Jeremiah purposefully remembered God as “merciful and gracious” and “abundant in lovingkindness.” Lamentations 3:21-22 says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (NIV).

For many of us, the past several months have been times of lament—of sorrow. In days like these, we need to draw encouragement as we look back upon the times of God’s caring for us and for those we love.

Christ himself instructed His disciples to observe the act of Holy Communion “in remembrance of me.” As we think of the deep love that enabled Jesus to sacrifice His life for us, we begin to grasp how much He loves us and is with us.

As I write this, God continues to remind me of the many times when His grace has been evident in my life. Tough times, sure, but we do not need to replay how difficult we’ve had it. Instead, we need to focus on how God is working in all things—good and bad—for our benefit.

Now I am singing, "He’s Been Faithful.” You can sing along too, if you want. As we live our lives, we need to constantly rehearse, refresh, and restore memories of God’s steadfast love.

Now here is my recommendation. Before I tell you what it is, I guarantee that if you do it, God will refresh your heart, your soul, your strength, and your mind. Here it is: take a journal with several pages left in it. Leave the first page blank, so you can title it when you’re ready—maybe something like “God’s Times of Blessings in My Life,” but you choose. Then, carry the journal with you wherever you go for a few weeks. During this time, purposefully allow yourself to remember times of God’s grace in your life. He will help you remember grace-filled times you had forgotten. Write these down, and, after every one, be sure to add, “Thank you!” As you continue this exercise, it’s likely you will need another journal (or more) to contain the many blessings that come to mind.

Dr. Norm Henry has served the Church of the Nazarene in numerous capacities as both psychologist and minister.