… and what we should forget.
Memory is an amazing thing. Through memory we can be instantly transported to our past. And interesting things can trigger a memory, such as a song, a photograph or even a certain scent. For instance, a whiff of Coppertone lotion transports me back to the ’50s. That’s what memory can do.
Scientists tell us that we have an astounding capacity to remember and that we never really forget anything. We store millions of bits of information in the memory banks of our minds.
And as the years pass, I find that memories begin to accumulate. Now I begin a lot more of my sentences with, “Hey, remember the time when …?”
While some memories can remain so vivid and clear, others can become quite fuzzy and distant. I’m amazed at how I can’t recall the names of people I’ve known but haven’t seen for a while. I can remember things about them as well as the names of their children, but I can’t think of their names.
There are things stored in the data banks of our memories that have grown somewhat dormant, and they need to be rekindled and refreshed. I think that’s why the Bible reminds us of some of the basics of the Christian life.
In 2 Peter, for example, we read that we need to have faith, be longsuffering and love others. And then Peter writes:
“Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.” —2 Peter 1:12
In other words Peter was saying, “I know you know these things, but I think I need to refresh your memory.”
Sometimes I’ll think of something in the morning, so I’ll tell myself, Make a mental note. … Remember to call this person. … Remember to pick this up.
In the same way, it’s important to remember what God has done for us. Although we may have forgotten him at times, God has never forgotten us. The psalmist wrote:
“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” —Psalm 139:17–18
Can you imagine that? Think about when you’ve been to the beach and how much sand you unintentionally bring back. It’s on your beach chair and your towel. It’s in your hair. But that’s only a little of what’s back there at the beach—one of many beaches on the planet.
God is saying, “My thoughts toward you are more than the grains of sand.” That is how much God thinks about you as an individual.
One of my favorite Scripture passages is in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, where God says:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” —29:11
I’d be glad if God had just said, “I know the one single thought that I thought about you 35 years ago.”
To think that the Creator of the universe, Almighty God, would have had even a passing thought about me would bring me great joy. But that is not what the Bible tells us. Rather, God said, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” This speaks of present and future. God is saying, “I’m thinking about you, I have thoughts about you, and I will continue to think about you in the days ahead.”
It reminds me of children who always want their moms and dads to watch them do something. They’ll say, “Mom, watch me ride my bike,” or “Dad, look at me hit the ball!” They’re effectively saying, “Notice me.” They want their parents to pay attention to what they’re doing.
We need to remember that we have a heavenly Father who is always watching us. As the great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon said:
“It will become a cause of joy to reflect that our best Friend is never away from us, that our Protector’s hand is never removed, that the great observant eye of divine love is never closed.”
Here’s a real litmus test of your relationship with God: What’s your reaction to the idea that God is thinking about you and watching you? Does it bring joy to your heart, or does it instead bring dread or fear?
If the latter is the case, then something isn’t right in your life. If you’re a true follower of Jesus Christ and have an understanding of how much he loves you, then it should bring you great joy to know that God is thinking about you and has never forgotten about you.
It’s also important to note that if you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ, he has forgotten your sins. God has said, “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins” (Heb. 8:12). That, of course, is contingent on the fact that you’ve repented of those sins.
If you’re trying to hide them, however, you need to know that it always will come out eventually. And that day may come sooner than you think. On the other hand, if you’ve repented of your sins and asked God to forgive you, then he’s said that he will never again remember them.
Therefore, we should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget. If God has forgotten it, then we need to forget it, too. But we never should forget him.