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Forgetting the goodness of God

Most of us have a remarkable ability to forget. It's what enables us to take new risk. Having been burned in one relationship, as the pain begins to recede in our memory, we may find ourselves taking a chance on a new relationship. When my daughter, Emily, was young, she fell from the pony…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Most of us have a remarkable ability to forget. It's what enables us to take new risk. Having been burned in one relationship, as the pain begins to recede in our memory, we may find ourselves taking a chance on a new relationship.

When my daughter, Emily, was young, she fell from the pony she was riding and was drug along the ground for 100 yards. She was banged up and bruised and done with horses. But eventually, as that memory became less painful, she was back up and riding again.

Forgetfulness can be a gift. Pain needs to be put in context for life to continue. But it can also cause us to lose the things in life we hold most precious. For example, we can lose track of the goodness of God.

The story of God and man is the story of man's forgetting. It didn't take Adam long to forget God's goodness. The Israelites kept forgetting the way God had blessed them as they trudged through the wilderness.

They proved what we know from our own experience: When the balance of pain in our lives tilts away from God, we can forget his blessings.

But here's the thing – our lack of recent experience doesn't invalidate his reality. Truth remains truth even if it's muted by time and adversity.

Knowing this, we need strategies to remember. The Israelites practiced remembering the goodness of God through the feasts they scheduled throughout the year. The liturgies in our churches are a means of collective remembrance. The creeds and prayers we say together are in a way mnemonic devices forcing our minds away from the sea of forgetfulness.

The very act of assembling together as a community of believers is a celebration of memory over spiritual entropy, helping us to see God more readily. Our communities bring together the various members of the body of Christ. In getting together, we re-member Christ's body.

On any given day, I'm likely to receive an email from a blog reader who has encountered pain, is depressed, and is fighting to not forget God's goodness. I want to help them fight, but myself grow weary. I think, "What good will my lousy little encouraging email do them?" Right now I have two long emails in my inbox like that awaiting my response…

Perhaps you are on the back slopes of a mountain of God's goodness. If so, what do you do to fight the attrition of memory? I keep an "encouragement file" to help me remember. And I collect stories that boost my memory. For example, this cardiologist who died and returned to life. Though he was brain-dead, he saw heaven. When he was eventually resuscitated, his belief in God and the afterlife was unshakeable.

I keep journals that remind me of how I felt when I experienced the reality of a God who loves me. My 1991 journal records how God spoke to me in ways that blew me away – when I read it, my confidence in God's goodness gets a turboboost.

I know that I know that God is good. I know that he loves his children. And I believe that even though he may not have shown you his goodness lately, still he loves you with an unshakeable love.

When was the last time you experienced the goodness of God? How are you fighting against the tide of forgetfulness?

Comments (5)

  • I’m so glad to see you brought up the feast of the Israelites. I believe God instituted these feasts so the people would be reminded of Him throughout the year. I find the same thing to work on my own life, through creating “rituals” of prayer time and thanksgiving where I reflect on the goodness of God.

  • in a world awash with bad news, we have to work at remembering the good – personal standing stones.

    thanks for the reminder!

  • Hi Seth
    Thank you for this great blog, it puts things into perspective relating to my own “walk down Gods memory lane”.
    In ever want to forget what God has done for me, how he saved my marriage after I single handedly destroyed it. How he rescued me from my life of addiction. Because my testimony is His victory story, I find myself telling it to groups of people and living out the obligation to his Son, Jesus Christ by being his witness to the ends of the world.
    This is one of my ways I can remember his Glory, and through this he blesses me daily with just his presence. How awesome it is to be in the presence of the Creator of the Universe.

    Blessing to you and all at AIM

  • I have 4 family members suffering immeasurable things right now. It seems like when we are suffering (as we watch others suffer) we forget that God is up to something good in the midst of it. There is a purpose for everything in our lives. Ecclesiastes 3:1. To be able to see beauty and hope and joy in the trying times of life is something new for me in this season of my life. This evening I cried out to God on the way home from a weary but easy inservice day to just be near Him. I wanted to be so close to Him. I came home. I told God please let me put You first. I chose Him first. I plunged calmed and quieted my heart because His voice isn’t in the wind or the thunder but it’s a still small voice…1 Kings 19:11-12. It’s been weeks since I was able to bask in Him and just let Him love me as well. He desires to love us more than we know.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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