Do you remember sitting bedside near your child as their life appeared to be slipping before your very eyes? Do you remember receiving that grim cancer diagnosis of advanced stages in your doctor’s office? Do you remember the depths of darkness that enveloped your being as your helplessness in any situation covered you? Do you remember Who was with you, listening, watching, guiding, and reaching out to comfort you during these emotionally charged times of despair? As in the allegorical marital covenant between Christ and His bride, say, “I do.” In all these things, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
When times of unease and abrupt trials make their way into our lives, as Christians, and even as the undecided, we cry out in desperation for help from the Lord. Help through healing of sicknesses, help through perseverance to endure, help through wisdom to proceed, help through grieving in loss, just help period. These pleas are telling that we do realize, though not consistently, that we aren’t in control and relinquishing in submission to the One who is can be a big step for us. The problem arises when our prayers are answered, as we thought they ought to be, and we melt back into the daily grind, forgetting the God who helped.
In our defense, we’ve been doing this since the era of the biblical age. Our perpetual forgetfulness is not surprising to our Lord, but I can’t help but think that it must be disappointing to Him. This God of wonders performed miraculous proofs for His people from the beginning of time and, although some believe certain ones have since ceased, He continues to reign over all healings, all bestowed wisdom and ability to persevere, and even all grace in our grief. Somehow though, we recycle the neglectful forgetfulness of God when we reach a certain point of satisfaction. “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day” (Deuteronomy 8:10-11). Moses goes on in this passage to say, “Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied…then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (8:12 & 14). We forget and our hearts become proud, returning to our own self reliance and slowly seeping back towards the hard heartedness that God was molding and softening through our dire circumstances. We reverse direction, back to the slavery that Christ freed us from (Galatians 5:1).
It is true that with this freedom comes also the freedom to forget, but is this how we are to embrace this fact? What, then, will beckon us back to remembering that God is deserving of your reverence, before any and all other duties you’re responsible for? God is not our proverbial genie in a bottle, only there for us when we’re in despair, to grant us our wishes for good health and prosperity. To be sure, He is with us at all times, whether we’re on the mountaintops of joy and feeling blessed, or in the valleys of persecution and suffering. This is the epitome of freedom in faithfulness to Him, regardless of how you feel, His Presence is freeing. Although He may lead you back through the desert of despair, holding onto Him by not forgetting, this time, as the anonymous writer of the “Footprints in the Sand” poem reveals, you may not see His face or audibly hear His voice, but you will see the evidence of His footsteps walking through the desert sand as He carries you.
Darkness, deserts, and despair aside, even in the prosperous phases of our lives, we’d be better off remembering Him. Rejoicing in, and praising Him for the simple reality that He has not forgotten us. His promises hold true, His steadfast love never fails, and His character is without flaw. None of these can be fulfilled by another person or passion, so to pursue anything in place of God is bound to catch up with you eventually. Forgetting Him as we fill our time with other pursuits is nothing short of idolatry. Let it not be that we are prompted to remember solely due to hospital stays, relational struggles, or funeral services. However, if that is how He chooses to get your undivided attention, He’s still there, hearing your prayers and commanding you not to forget.