Remember Your Journey

Looking back can bring hope for the future.

Susie Hilsman

Sometimes when I feel discouraged, I pull one of my journals from the small bookcase in my room, get comfy on my bed and take a trip to the past.

I might read about the time I asked God to send me and a friend $5 for lunch, and He did.

We worked as maids that summer and were totally broke. I was so young in my faith then; I hoped I had prayed correctly. I remember being astounded that God had heard my prayers and had answered so specifically. (Through a tip left in a room we cleaned just before lunch, God actually provided more than $5.)

Or I might pick the journal containing the account of my trip to Switzerland two years ago.

Traveling to that country had been a dream of mine, and God had made it possible. It was a journalistic business trip, but one day during some free time a new Swiss friend took me to the top of an Alp. I remember standing atop Mount Rigi, looking at a snow-covered wooden cross erected long ago, and feeling so amazed that God had blessed me with this trip.

Seeing a Pattern

Although I've recorded many of God's faithful acts to me, I haven't captured every one. But I've penned enough to see a pattern: God loves me and He is always faithful.

Seeing the proof on my pages encourages me and gives me hope when I'm feeling stuck.

There's another book I turn to when I'm wondering if God is still working in my life: the Bible.

Sometimes when I read God's Word, I feel like I'm reading His journal. Time after time, God urges His people not to forget Him.

"Remember Me," His pages plead, "and remember I love you."

A Searching and Finding

Frederick Buechner, in his book A Room Called Remember, describes remembering as "a searching and finding."

When we search the past, we find examples of God's faithfulness to us, and this brings hope that He will continue to be loving and gracious in the future.

But it isn't always easy to remember.

I often walk bent over by the burdens I carry, unable to see the past or the future. I get hypnotized by my daily routine, and all I can see are present circumstances.

God's Command to Remember

To help His children remember His love and past faithfulness, God often commanded them to set up memorials.

When He stopped the flow of the flooded Jordan River so the Israelites could pass through into the promised land, God ordered them to gather stones from the river bed and place them near their camp.

"These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever," Joshua said. "For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you...  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God" (Joshua 4:7,23,24; New International Version).

God's "journal" recounts many more examples of His memorials.

"The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread," the apostle Paul explained, "and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23,24; NIV).

When we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we are to remember Him and why He came: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son..." (John 3:16, NIV).

And along with memorials from God's Word, we can bolster our memories with material from our own lives.

The Oil Plug

In Kindred Spirit magazine, David Merkh, a seminary professor in Brazil, writes about one of his family's memorials: an oil plug.

As I took the old, rusty plug from the knickknack shelf, the memories returned. As rookie missionaries in Brazil, we had just completed a retreat...Driving down a deserted road, our engine clunked, then ground to a halt.

We discovered an oily trail snaking all the way back to the site of the retreat...A mechanic had changed the oil but failed to secure the plug.

It was gone.

"When we reached town, we needed to replace the plug. We found a store, where the manager told us, 'Sorry, but I haven't got that part.'

Back in the street, a voice called from behind. Reaching in the back of his car, a man pulled out a familiar, rusted old plug.

'I live far out of town. I saw this plug on the road. I don't know why, but I threw it in my car and forgot about it.'

Not only had we found a replacement part, we found our missing plug. Once again, God reminded me of His faithfulness."

Memorials don't have to be tangible items.

  • One family remembers God's faithfulness to them by celebrating each year the date the mom was healed of cancer.
  • Some people commemorate the day they began their journey with Christ.
  • A young woman I know loves to spend time with God in His great outdoors, and she keeps a distinctive rock from each especially meaningful encounter.

The Cure for Memory Trouble

God knew we would need memorials, whatever the type, to remind us of His love for us, because His people have had memory troubles throughout history.

A few hundred years after the Israelites entered the promised land, they began to forget God. Through a prophet named Micah, God sent them a message that could be summed up in one phrase: "My people, ...remember your journey" (Micah 6:5, NIV).

A Quick Lesson in Hebrew

The journey God mentioned took the Israelites from Shittim to Gilgal -- across the Jordan into the Promised Land.

But more than simply remembering the literal journey, God wanted His people to remember all that this journey symbolized.

The Hebrew word "Shittim " means "acacia," a thorny tree. A painful place.

The Hebrew word "Gilgal " means "rolling."

And concerning the Jordan River, according to The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Atlas, it is "the lowest depression on earth."

God took His people from a painful place, through the lowest depression on earth, and led them into the land rolling with milk and honey. When they were in danger of forgetting His faithfulness, He tenderly called them, "My people," and exhorted them to remember.

And He did it all because He loved them.

What It All Means for You

God hasn't changed, and neither has His message to His people.

Remember your journey. Remember the times that God has worked in your life, intervened on your behalf or just met with you in a special way.

Take a fresh look at the monuments of His love in your life.

Whether you're in a painful place or a promised land, remember that God has led you safe thus far, and He is with you now. And may your memories point you to His love and strengthen you to take the next step on your journey.

For Further Study

1. What are we called to remember in each of the following verses? Why do you think God wants us to remember these things?

  • 1 Chronicles 16:12,13
  • Psalm 63:6,7
  • Psalm 103:2
  • Psalm 106:7
  • Isaiah 44:21
  • John 2:22
  • 2 Peter 3:8,9

2. What are some things God remembers?

  • Psalm 74:2
  • Exodus 6:5

3. What happens when we don't remember? How do these verses apply to your life today?

  • Judges 8:33-35
  • Nehemiah 9:16-18
  • Psalm 78:11,17-22

4. Name some events from your past when God demonstrated His love and faithfulness. How can you memorialize them?

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