Remembering and Hope…

Posted by on Feb 26, 2023 in Blog | 2 comments

We live in an era of chronological snobbery, where only the most current is seen to be worthy of attention. Often we judge the past too severely, assuming every tool at our disposal was available to earlier generations and forgetting how much they did with so much less than we have. While I am convinced that we should look more to the future than to the past, it is possible to push that too far. After all, one of the most frequent cries in scripture is “remember”, and to forget to remember is too risk misunderstanding the part we are called to shape and play in the ongoing story of God in the world. How can you know what you should do when you don’t know where you have come from?

Because the Bible is filled with so many stories of dramatic encounters with God, we might assume that the people who lived during that time must have been observing the miraculous on a near daily basis. The reality was different. The Bible was written over a period of about 1600 years. Divide the stories with a 1600 year time frame and you quickly realise there were many dry and quiet seasons. A common refrain in the Bible is “how long?” How long before you will act and intervene God? How long before you will bring justice? How long before you will restore the good fortunes of your people? And the Bible has more than its fair share of the “why” question. “Why do the wicked prosper?” “Why do you not hear when we call?” “Why are you so far from me?”

It is in this context that the Bible reminds us to remember. We are told to remember those times when God intervened in such a way that there could be no doubting that it was God. It is why Joshua instructed the Israelites to build a 12 stone altar of remembrance after they miraculously succeeded in crossing the previously flooded Jordan River. Joshua says to them: “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:6-7) In other words Joshua is essentially saying that events like this don’t happen every second Tuesday, so remember when they do, and allow these special events to keep your faith alive and strong.

While the stories in the Bible have particular power and lasting purpose, there are stories all around that we should also pay attention to. It is common for us to lament the decline in church attendance – indeed it is so marked that many church buildings have been sold and are now being used for different purposes. I was looking at a “for sale” sign at a disused church just a few months ago, and thinking that with a little imagination it could be turned into a wonderful residence – and actually that is what the estate agent marketing the property was suggesting. As I stood there, I wondered how many God stories were in danger of being forgotten with the closing of that chapter. I’ve been involved with a fair few churches over the years and know that for each there were real stories of struggle, sacrifice and faith to acquire the land and buildings they had. They represented trust in action, for most had no guarantee of success. In the course of my ministry I have been involved in 6 fairly major building projects and several minor ones. Some seemed downright impossible to me. We were struggling enough to get by without taking on new debt… yet each time godly people assured me that God could be trusted and all would be fine. They were always right.

Just because a local church closes does not mean that God was never at work there. To the contrary, that it was once there is a reminder that another community of people were encountering the living God in their own particular way – writing another few pages of the enormous story of what God has done and is doing in the world. Remember… Rather than lament what is no longer, give thanks for what once was – while keeping your eyes open to the new stories of God.

What is true for congregations is true for families and individuals. If your family has a history of trusting God, don’t forget its stories. My mother-in-law lived to be a hundred, and at least a hundred times she told the story of sitting down to a meal with no food to give her husband and children. My father-in-law, a Baptist pastor for over 50 years, insisted on giving thanks for the non-existent meal. This was during the Great Depression – times were hard indeed. As he said the amen, there was a knock at the door and a complete stranger (perhaps an angel unaware) was there with a bag of groceries. “God told me to give these to you,” he said, and left. They never saw him again, and were never again in such a desperate position. But they never forgot.

I have my own stories to tell (and do in my book Why Christianity is Probably True). No, I don’t have hundreds and hundreds of stories – but I have enough to go back to on doubting days – and when I remember… I remember. I remember that God is, and that God can be trusted, and that God continues to work in the world… And God also continues to work in me.

This is all to simply say, if you feel a little low, why not take some time to remember. Remember those moments when God was close. I have enough faith to believe that if you cast your mind back and remember, you will discover your own rich treasure of God stories. Remember them, and take hope.

As always, nice chatting…

Permission is given to reproduce this post with acknowledgement of source. Please forward to those who might find it helpful.


  1. Remembering is VERY important.
    One day I read the story of my Jewish aunt by marriage with remarkable stories of salvation, faith, provision, fiduciary. She became a missionary with my uncle in the Mpumalanga area. This inspired me to me to write about God’s work in my life as grandchildren didn’t know what I was like in the past and how God has used His Word, circumstances and people to change who I am. So I set about this task which has taken years.
    It is amazing to look back and see God’s hand which I couldn’t discern at the time and how he used the circumstances to mould me. This influenced my view of the future. Seeing how God worked and is working inspires me to trust in the future.

    • That is wonderful Ruth. So glad you have recorded the story for your grandchildren and perhaps their children one day as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.