Alzheimers. If you know someone who has been diagnosed with it, you understand how awful the journey can be. My friend’s mother has been struggling with Alzheimers for years and doesn’t recognize her husband anymore, often fearing he is a robber. When that happens, her husband speaks tenderly to her. Then he holds her and dances with her, whirling her around as he once did, all the while whispering, Remember.
As he restates his love for her, she calms down. He reminds her of their life together. He reminds her of their happy memories. He reminds her of things long forgotten. And then, from deep within, she recognizes that she should not be afraid. She knows that she is safe.
Their dance brings to life a reality we all experience with God in crisis. Even when we believe God is faithful, all we can see is the dark unknown before us. I know because, even though the Lord met me in breathtaking ways after my son died and when I lost my marriage, I still panic when new trials come. I cry out to God with questions like, “Why aren’t you fixing this?” “Will you take care of me?” “Why do you feel so distant?” I wish I were more consistently faith-filled, unafraid, calmly trusting through every crisis.
How do we find hope in the middle of our stories? How do we keep going when life feels relentlessly hard? We hear God whisper again, through his word, Remember. We turn to God when we are in unfamiliar territory, afraid of the future, and we ask him to help us remember. To hold us and remind us that he has faithfully walked through our lives with us.
Has the Lord Forgotten?
I take comfort in seeing that the psalmists, who also had seen God’s faithfulness, often began their conversations with God with similar fears and questions. They asked,
“Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (Psalm 77:9)
“When will you comfort me?” (Psalm 119:82)
“How long must your servant endure?” (Psalm 119:84)
They knew who God was and who he promised to be for them. And yet when trouble came, they cried out to him with questions. They wondered why he hadn’t delivered them. They felt distant from him, wondering why he hadn’t drawn near to them or given them comforting assurances. They wondered if he would ever help them.
After crying out to God, though, we see the psalmists shift from questioning God to trusting him. What caused that shift? How did they go from scared to secure? We see that they engaged God, looking to him for direction, confident that he would listen and answer. What fueled that transformational confidence? Remembering.
Remembering kept and strengthened them through trials, and remembering has fueled me in my better moments. Remembering God’s promises and steadfast love. Remembering his faithfulness through the Bible. And remembering his faithfulness to me.
What Has God Promised You?
God’s promises are sure. Not one word of any of the good promises he has made fails to come true (Joshua 21:45; 23:14).
“Like a canopy of stars, the promises of God shine brighter as the sky gets blacker.”
Even when everything around us is dark, remembering helps us trust that light will come. In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah felt utterly abandoned and hopeless. Yet he then declared, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23). Jeremiah’s whole outlook changed when he remembered. He remembered God’s faithfulness. He remembered God’s covenant love. He remembered God’s mercies were new every morning.
Remembering the promises in Scripture can be a lifeline for sufferers. Like a canopy of stars, the promises of God shine brighter as the sky gets blacker. Memorizing Scriptures that encourage you can be a huge source of comfort and strength. A few of my favorites are John 14:27, Psalm 46:1–2, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 23:4, and Romans 8:31–32.
What Has God Done for Others?
The children of Israel regularly recited the deeds of the Lord and pondered his past works (Psalm 77:11–12). Psalm 78 reminds us that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and gave them water from a rock and bread from heaven, providing for all their needs. Even when they rebelled against him, God kept returning to deliver and protect them.
Remembering is what sustained many Jews faithful in the four-hundred-year silence, when there was no word from the Lord, no fresh revelation of him. They were instructed throughout Deuteronomy to tell and retell their children about God’s faithfulness, lest they forget all that the Lord had done (Deuteronomy 4:9).
As I remember God’s faithfulness throughout Scripture, I often place myself in one of the biblical accounts. I think about how Naomi might have felt as she lived in Moab, a widow whose sons had both died. She was destitute. A foreigner. Afraid. She wondered if the Lord had forgotten her, or perhaps was even against her. I imagine how she felt on her way back to Bethlehem, embarrassed about what her life had become. She felt bitter and hopeless, as we often do, with no idea that God was already sowing the seeds of her redemption. While she could not see it, her deliverance was just around the corner.
As we read the Old Testament, we see the despair of Jeremiah, of Naomi, of David, of Job, and of many others when they were in the middle of their stories. We also see how God answered them. And we can see evidence of God’s faithfulness through our own trials, even when we can’t see what he is doing.
What Has God Done for You?
Even when my nightmares came true, God was faithful. The children of Israel had Ebenezers (1 Samuel 7:12), memorial stones of remembrance, that the Lord told them to build as reminders, over generations, of what he had done (Joshua 4:6–7). I keep an Ebenezer board in which I have mounted shells that remind me of God’s constancy. Every shell represents a spectacular answer to prayer or a time of remarkable closeness to God. When I created the board and recollected the events that surrounded each spiritual triumph, I realized almost all came after periods of desperation and darkness. My spiritual highs often have come after my emotional and physical lows.
I was surprised when I first saw that my deepest struggles have become stepping-stones to my greatest revelations of God. As I reflected more, however, I saw that same theme woven through Scripture. Paul tells us that our “light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
“My deepest struggles had become stepping-stones to my greatest revelations of God.”
In others words, our sufferings are stepping-stones to greater sights and experiences of God. He also says our present sufferings “are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Since I’ve been astonished by what the Lord has revealed to me on earth through my suffering, I cannot imagine how glorious heaven’s revelations will be.
For the Middle of Your Story
If you are struggling in the middle of your story today, at another painful crossroads of suffering or loss, and wonder how to find hope in Christ, I encourage you to remember.
As Romans 15:4 says, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The Lord gives us hope through the Scriptures. Read Psalm 105 and “remember the wondrous works that he has done” (Psalm 105:5). Put yourself in the narratives of the saints in the Bible who struggled, and notice how God provided for them. Then reflect on your own life. Remember when you felt desperate in the past and how the Lord provided. Write down the ways God has met you in the past. Recall the times when you asked for wisdom, courage, or help, and how he supplied what you needed.
God will not leave you. He is in this trial with you. He has not forgotten you. If you trust him, this story will end in glory.