The Power of Remembering
As the year draws to an end, we have a once-a-year opportunity to look back over the previous 12 months and remember, relive,(and possibly try to forget) the events that shaped our journey that was 2022. We do this in different ways.
Perhaps some of us will go to our journal to page through the days, remembering how God answered prayer, how he was with you in the struggles and challenges you faced, and the way he displayed his faithfulness in your life. Others of us may recall the difficult moments this year where our faith was challenged,and God seemed far away. Certainly, for all of us, there were mountaintops and valleys and lots of normal days in between.
I want to encourage you not to miss the value in these times of remembering. I was surprised to learn that the word ‘remember’occurs over 231 times in scripture. It’s a major theme throughout the Bible where God calls his people in times of fear and challenge to look back and remember all that he had already done for them.
The night before his crucifixion Jesus instituted the Eucharist with the command that every time we eat and drink, we would remember his death until he comes. We celebrate that hallowed sacrament with the words “do this in remembrance of me.”
You can hear the same theme in the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 124 when he proclaimed, “If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
2 if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters
would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Perhaps the most powerful demonstration of the importance of remembering came from the prophet Samuel. Hear again the story in 1 Samuel 7:10-12:
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Laying down an ‘Ebenezer stone’ in our life is a powerful way to end 2022. By doing so we proclaim that for all that we have gone through in the previous year, thus far the Lord has helped us.
Let me suggest that remembering in these ways will work two important things in our lives. First, remembering keeps us from self-reliance. When we look back at those moments when God’s faithfulness was our lifeline, when God’s provision was our daily bread, and when the power of God in our lives is all that kept us going, it keeps us focused on the right things. Certainly,we will see many places where God worked in us and through us to bring about his good and perfect will, but it was always him. That’s the value of remembering, it throws us back on God and total reliance on his faithfulness and provision.
The second way remembering works good in our lives is to keep us from discouragement. Samuel laid down his Ebenezer stone so the children of Israel would remember that no matter what lay ahead, the same God who got them here will get them there. I would encourage you to write down at least 5 specific moments in 2022 when God overcame an obstacle, answered an urgent prayer, and delivered you from a seemingly impossible situation. Let these be your Ebenezer stones, reminding you that as the calendar turns to January 1, 2023, you can look ahead to a future with the same powerful, faithful, loving, providing God who got you here.
Finally, as you create for yourself your own Ebenezer stones, as you identify and celebrate God’s faithfulness in your life through 2022, it is very important that you share these with your family, your children and, if you have them, your grandchildren. This is an opportunity at the end of the year to pass along a generational blessing by helping those around you remember and celebrate all that God has done in their life as well. You can use these days to lead your family in identifying your own Ebenezer stones and proclaim the goodness of God even in the midst of all of the struggles in our world. You can do it for your colleagues at work, your board, your community at church, and every life you touch.
We are all desperately in need of good news, hope, and a vision for a brighter future. How better to share that good news with the world around us than to anchor it on the solid rock of a God in whom we can proclaim with all our heart, “thus far he has helped us.” May he continue to call you into a life of faithfulness and service that will be rich, meaningful, and advance his Kingdom for his glory throughout 2023.
Happy New Year!