The Spiritual Discipline of Remembering
Happy New Year and welcome to the first Ezer Equipped of 2020! For some of us, the last year brought hardships and loss, and you are thankful to see this year come to a close. For others, the year brought joy and new life and you are full of gratitude for all this year held. For most of us, though, 2019 was a mix of joy and sorrow, hardship and blessing. As we bring 2019 to a close, many of us are turning our eyes with hope and anticipation toward the promise and potential that a new year tends to bring. But as we race into the new year and all that it holds, it’s important that we not forget how God met us in 2019. So this month, we want to be intentional and take some time to reflect on 2019 and remember the ways God was present and provided for us.
When I first got sober, a mentor told me that we have built-in forgetters and that I needed to remind myself of the pain and chaos addiction brought into my life so that I would not be tempted to return to it. After I became a Christian, I found that same truth all throughout the Bible. Over and over again, God called the Israelites to remember—to remember his faithfulness, his covenant promise, his protection and provision, his mercy and grace, and his rescue and deliverance. But over and over again, they forgot and found themselves enslaved to their own sin and to foreign nations. Forgetting God led to many undesirable consequences for his chosen people, and the same holds true for us. Whenever I forget God, I strive to manage life on my own, with my own limited wisdom and perspective. I retreat into self-protection and self-promotion. I attempt to control circumstances and people around me. I return to old sin patterns or establish new ones. I attempt to find life, hope, and purpose in things that could never fully satisfy and sustain me.
Remembering has been an important and necessary part of my ongoing sobriety. So several years ago, I wanted to celebrate my twentieth year of sobriety by commemorating all that God had done. While on a hike through the mountains, I decided I would collect a rock for each year I had been sober. Then I placed all of the rocks in a glass jar so that I could have a visible reminder of God’s faithfulness to not only rescue me but to also sustain me. As I look at those stones of remembrance, I am filled with gratitude and awe at who God is and all he has done.
Remembering isn’t just an important part of my sobriety, it’s also necessary to my spiritual maturity. It is important for me to remind myself of all that God has done so that I am not lured into unbelief in my present circumstances. It is important to remember all that God has done so that I do not drift into entitlement or apathy. It’s important to remember who God is and all he has done so that I do not fall into despair when life gets hard. The discipline of remembering doesn’t change my circumstances, but it does change my perspective. It takes my eyes off of myself and places them on God—the one who is faithful and just, gracious and merciful. Ultimately, rightly remembering leads us to worship!
Because we have “built-in forgetters”, the intentional practice of remembering is an important spiritual discipline for all believers to implement. When we look back, we are more prepared to move forward with faith and courage, trusting that: God will lead, God will protect, and God will accomplish his purposes. We can fight against him or embrace and trust him.
So before we rush into all that this new year brings, we want to take some time to reflect on how God was present with us last year. We have provided a few resources to read or listen to, some questions to reflect on and discuss with those in your community, and we created a reflection guide you can use alone or with family and friends. We pray that this time spent intentionally remembering God will enable you to move into this new year with hope and confidence in the God who remembers you!
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
by: Matt Chandler
In this brief article, Matt Chandler calls us to three important rhythms of remembering. Remember and rejoice that God saved you. Remember and rejoice that God is present in your circumstances. Remember and rejoice that God finishes what he starts.
“When we remember God’s past faithfulness and rejoice in it, we find a firm foundation regardless of our circumstances, but when we forget this rhythm, the weight of the world feels crushing.”
Scripture: Psalm 106
This psalm reminds us not only of the importance of remembering who God is and what he has done but also what happens when we forget. We encourage you to read and revisit this psalm multiple times throughout this month. Perhaps even choose a few verses and commit them to memory or even write them out and place them somewhere you will see them on a regular basis.
“Our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds. They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them. Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea. Even so, he saved them—to defend the honor of his name and to demonstrate his mighty power.”
Podcast: The Battle to Remind
by: John Piper
In this brief clip, John Piper says that one of the greatest enemies of hope is forgetting God's promises, and he urges us to engage the practice of regularly reminding ourselves of who God is and all he has done and has promised to do.
“If we don’t ‘call to mind’ what God has said about himself and about us, we languish. Oh, how I know this from painful experience! Don’t wallow in the mire of godless messages in your own head. Messages like: ‘I can’t...’ ‘She won’t...’ ‘They never...’ ‘It has never worked...’...The point is not that these are true or false. Your mind will always find a way to make them true unless you ‘call to mind’ something greater.”
by: Journeywoman Podcast with Betsy Gomez
This podcast with Betsy Gomez is rich with biblical support on the importance of remembering. Betsy discusses why remembering is necessary and what happens to us when we forget.
“When they forget, they ended up as slaves in misery. They became idolatrous. We are made from the same material as those who made and worshiped the golden calf. We are the same human beings in the same condition. Our spiritual forgetfulness makes us vulnerable to all kinds of lies. And believing lies leads us to all kinds of sin.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- We are prone to forgetfulness—especially when it comes to remembering who God is and who we are in him. It can be difficult to remember these important truths in isolation. When we are alone it is easy to turn in on ourselves, which is why we need community. Who do you have in your life that helps you remember? If you feel this is lacking in your relationships, what can you do to develop a relationship with someone this year who can tell you the truth and help you remember? How can you take existing relationships and make them deeper so that these types of conversations can become a natural part of how you encourage and challenge one another?
- We don’t need anything new to help us remember; we already have the tools we need. We have Scripture, we have worship, and we have sacraments like the Lord’s supper. How can you engage each of these in new ways daily, weekly, and seasonally to help you develop the discipline of remembering?
- Why is remembering hard? What have been some consequences of you forgetting who God is and all he has done in your life?
- How would remembering God’s provision and faithfulness change your:
- View of the future
- View of your present circumstances
- View of yourself
- Ability to trust
- Level of anxiety
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- We have created a new resource for you! Print out this reflection guide and complete it over the next month. This guide will lead you through a process of reflecting on 2019 and preparing you to move into 2020 with renewed faith and trust in our faithful God. If you like this guide, be sure to check out the Ezer Applied Discipleship Guide which leads you through a more in-depth process of reflection and application of spiritual truths. Watch this video to learn more about Ezer Applied or click here to get your own copy.
- There are 150 psalms. Commit to reading one Psalm per day. This would carry you throughout the first five months of this year. As you read through the psalm for each day, circle references to God’s character, his faithfulness, his deliverance, and his actions on behalf of his people. Then write one way you have seen God show up in your own life each day in the margin and date it.
- Set aside time this year to work through the Ezer Applied discipleship journal. This journal is meant to help you remember biblical truths explored in the Ezer studies and help guide you through how to apply them in your current season and circumstances.
- Create a new tradition to commemorate God’s faithfulness. Involve friends, family, or your community group. Establishing a communal rhythm of remembering together can not only deepen the bonds of fellowship, but it can also increase our joy as we listen to our friends and loved ones share the marvelous work of God in their lives.
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.