How's your memory? More specifically, how's your faith-memory, your ability to remember and hold onto powerful moments with God long after they've passed? Turns out that reminding ourselves—and helping others do the same—builds the kind of faith that pleases God.
Recently my friend's grandmother passed away. In her final hours, God pulled out all the stops to get my friend to her matriarch's bedside to bring her into God's presence at death. It was a remarkable story: God gave my friend a shooting-star prayer request confirmation about whether she should make the long drive; her grandmother's illness allowed her to hear but not speak (a "one-way vessel" as my friend said); the frail woman shed tears of repentance and joy when she silently but unmistakably received Christ, with peace washing over her body minutes before she died. It was awesome—one of those astonishing moments when God is so present and directive it's unmistakable.
I've had several incidents in my life when God showed up in similar, unforgettable ways—so clear, so present, it about took my breath away. Everything else fades in moments like that and there's just God at center stage, awesome and sufficient. There's nothing in the world like it.
Why can't it happen more often? Why can't every day be a God-enters-in, circumstance-amazing day? Who wouldn't want God to regularly turn up in obvious, powerful ways?
Perhaps it's because God wants us to worship him and not his miracles, his person and not his capabilities. He wants us to love him, not what he can do for us. Will we worship him when things go wrong—when the van breaks down, the mortgage check bounces, or your baby lies ill in the NICU? Will we worship him in the mundane—when the laundry's piled high and the kids bicker incessantly?
Being able to worship in such circumstances is linked to our capacity to remember the amazing times God gives us in our faith journey. As we hold onto the divine and miraculous moments in our lives, rehearsing to ourselves God's clear presence and obvious faithfulness, we're strengthened to love and keep trusting him in more difficult times. This helps make us "perfect and complete" (James 1:4).
Sometimes, paradoxically, it's right after God's miracles happen when he seems far and unreliable, and we're tempted to go our own way. It's as if, having seen God show up so clearly, we're unwilling to accept anything less from him. I love what God says to the Israelites just as they're entering the Promised Land, after the dozens of miracles they experienced in the wilderness: "...Be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 8:11b). And again, "Do not become proud...and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery" (Deuteronomy 8:14). And finally: "If you ever forget the Lord your God...you will certainly be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19).
So a key to persevering faith, faith that pleases God and grows us, is remembering. Will we remember the riveting, central, miraculous times? Will we anchor ourselves on those moments and continue calling to mind the undeniable presence and power of God that we ourselves experienced?
As leaders, are we helping others remember the faithfulness that God has displayed in their lives? Are we encouraging them to build monuments in their lives to the faithfulness of God, as Joshua directed his men to do when they built the rock-pile altar to the Lord by the Jordan River? Joshua told his people: "Your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?' Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord's Covenant went across.' These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever'" (Joshua 4:6-7).
Let's become a people characterized by our long and attentive memory of God's undeniable works in our lives—our own and in those we lead. Our failure to do so will make us weak and ineffective, or even destroy us.
Susan Arico is active in her church and among local Christian women. She has worked with faith-based nonprofits, such as Prison Fellowship, The Salvation Army, Promise Keepers, and others, developing programs to benefit high-risk populations, such as ex-prisoners, street children, and traumatized youth. Currently, she runs her own consulting company, Pray Creek Consulting LLC.