I’ve seen revival.
I’ve witnessed God’s Spirit grip the hearts and minds of people who, at best, were like phantoms spending very little of their thoughts on who God is or what He says about them and who, at worst, were antagonistic or devoid of any desire to follow God’s word. I’ve experienced what it’s like to be in a room where burdens and troubles melt away under the power of a genuine desire to praise and worship the Creator.
It was an incredible experience. It’s a memory that evokes a grief that’s only been eclipsed by the grief of my miscarriage.
God’s Glory and Expectations
The Bible is full of the miracles that God did through the lives of prophets, Jesus Christ, and the early disciples. God parted the Red Sea. He healed people. He gave the Breath of Life once more to revive those whose earthly bodies had faded!
We expect God to move in powerful ways because His Word reveals that He is powerful.
It’s right to expect these things. God does heal people, even today. That’s not my denomination’s strong suit. At the same time, I have heard many tales of people being healed or symptoms (like bad migraines) completely alleviated in response to prayers. It would be preposterous to believe that they were all made up, mere coincidences, or sugar pills that trick a person into being better through sheer belief that they took some medicine.
I’ve read testimonies that hint at supernatural protection. I’ve heard of Christians who woke up one morning with a sickening conviction that something very important needed to be done for somebody within that day and play a crucial part in saving somebody else’s life. In fact, I’ve seen God use an entire group and a conviction to plan an event be used in this way.
God does mighty things.
Yet there’s a problem that happens in our expectations. When you pray for God to reveal His glory to an individual or a person, you probably expect that God will show Himself in an undeniable proof. You might think experiencing God’s presence – especially the spontaneous revival I mentioned at the beginning – would linger in the hearts and minds of those who were there. You might think that it would fill individuals with a boldness to declare what God has done for them. You might even ask, “If it happened once, then why doesn’t it happen again with those people everywhere they go until all those on the earth declare God’s glory?”
The Forgetfulness of Humans
The unfortunate reality is that people forget.
It was the most powerful movement of God that I’ve ever experienced. There were others who witnessed it alongside me. Many of them let the memory fade. Quite a few of them are involved in sinful lifestyles and a few of them even openly mock Christians. They forgot God’s presence and power in that moment or else allowed them to forget that the same God who brought such joy and surrender is the same God who walks alongside them every single day.
People forget God. My friends forgot. And it’s not just them.
The Pharisees dismissed or diminished the meaning of Jesus’ miracles. They accused Him of everything they could think of so they could dismiss what it might mean for their lives that the promised Messiah was standing right in front of them saying, “You guys have your lives all wrong.”
Israel forgot God’s care and provision every time that He provided it. You don’t even get out of the book of Exodus before the cycle begins. By the time you are in Judges, it’s clear that sinners who don’t take the blood covenant with God seriously are leading the nation. Israel was depraved and not even all of the Judges were good people. That’s the point. God had a purpose for the nation of Israel and He didn’t need their permission or help to make it happen, although He certainly lamented their lack of faithfulness all through the prophets.
So why do people forget so easily?
I don’t know why.
If I’m honest, my initial thought is to go straight into doubt and forgetfulness myself. After all, if God designed us to respond to His presence – to praise Him and to love Him – then why is it so easy for His creation to forget Him? Isn’t that a huge oversight that hints that maybe we weren’t created so well after all?
Yet I know there is a God because I just described a moment when I experienced Him. There must be something else at work. The other alternative, that we face powerful enemies who deceive, trick, distract, and otherwise attempt to subjugate and control the lives of humans is even more unsettling. I don’t want to dwell on that at all. So I won’t directly mention a frightening verse in Daniel or all the warnings about spiritual warfare through the New Testament (and even in the Old Testament if you pay attention!)
In the end of it all, does it really matter why people forget?
The Misery of Forgetfulness
Where God is forgotten, compromise becomes easy and sin flourishes. Joy becomes struggle. Restfulness becomes restlessness. The bottomless pit of unsatisfaction opens within a person’s soul and causes them to greedily search for more. More amusement. More accomplishments. More material. More friends or a better lover.
People begin to forget even more as their hearts harden to the need to surrender all to Him. The ground is fertilized for the enemies to sow new doubts and deception. “Where is God?” leads this Forgetful Soul into questioning God’s existence rather than a place of conviction and repentance. Unfulfilled promises, like that of peace, become further proof of the God scam rather than being seen of a symptom that something is spiritually wrong inside Forgetful Soul.
It’s sad. It’s tragic I don’t know what happens to these people so I grieve. I reflect on verses like Ephesian’s 2:8 faith that is a “gift of God” and Romans 8:38-39’s “nothing can separate us from love” and Matthew 13’s “Parable of the Sower” and wonder. And then I wonder why I’m crying and wrestling with my own big why when there’s nothing at all that I can do to fix any of it.
“God, why are people so forgetful?
But then a thought creeps into my grief. What if this surging sorrow is something that I’m supposed to feel? And what if the people who feel anger at how God allows evil to flourish on this earth are also feeling something they supposed to feel? What if the emotions are right but our reactions to them are all wrong?
Instead of shutting down, withdrawing from the pain, or accusing God of lying about His love for humanity, what if we are supposed to be accepting an invitation to do something more? What if these powerful emotions are an invitation to partner with God in the work that He is doing?
35 Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people. 36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them because they were harassed and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest indeed is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.”Matthew 9:35-38 (WEB)
Anger at a world where people hurt one another. Grief at people who forget that we don’t have to suffer alone because we have a Savior who suffers alongside us. Aren’t these things compassion? Doesn’t the very depth of “this world is very wrong” compel us to make things right?
“Doesn’t God tell us exactly how to ease the pain and heartache and intervene in the evil actions of mankind in the Bible?“
The question is a whisper because I don’t want to listen. To respond is to acknowledge a responsibility that calls for renewed and even deeper surrender in my own life.
“Go meet needs. Feed the hungry. Help the sick. Encourage the downhearted. Make disciples. Love one another.”
Yet how can I do this unless I am willing to set aside my own time and interests? I’ll have to complicate the beautiful simplicity I work so hard to keep in the lives of my children. I’ll have to multi-task.
1 Kings 19 describes God’s whisper as being more powerful than a gust of wind, an earthquake, and fire. God’s whisper invites me to action.
The Things You Can Do
I take my grief and I pray for as long as the tears flood and I gasp for breath between sobs. This is something that I can do right now. In fact, I am commanded to do so. So I pray for the people carrying heavy burdens, that God would be close to the brokenhearted.. Sometimes for God to raise of laborers for the harvest. Sometimes for God to do His work and save us. Sometimes there’s not even anything in mind but I feel conscious of “the Spirit Himself intercedes through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
When the tears stop, words flow in their place. This is something that I also can do to help ease the pain of the world. I can point to God and add my voice to encourage those who are struggling. Can you hear me through this screen?
“God is real. God is here. God is with you, too. Do you remember Him?”
Yet if I stop with this – if I use it as a bandaid to ease the conviction of compassion – then I’ve failed to offer true peace to those around me. There’s people all around, who I pass every single day, who need to remember God’s glory. Or maybe, they haven’t even witnessed it for the first time yet.
So I’ll have to search for the next thing that I can do. It feels daunting, but it shouldn’t be. If a widow’s two small coins can have significance in Jesus’ eyes compared to all the other riches given, then surely God works in the small and humble actions that hardly seem important, too.
The Act of Remembering
One of the wisest men I know once taught a lesson on Joshua 3-4. In these chapters, Joshua leads Israel into the Promised Land. He does this by directing the Ark of the Covenant to be carried into the river so that the water will part. Once Israel walks across on dry land, God does something. He commands a pause so that 12 men can go back into the dry riverbed.
These men each retrieved one stone. They built a memorial to God’s presence and as a witness to His care. The memorial was to serve as a sign and a reminder a testimony unto future generations.
After reading these strange and often overlooked chapters, the teacher of the lesson said, “We all need our own stones to help us remember.”
We need to reflect on times that God has been faithful and present so that we do not forget. We need to inscribe them, tell them, and reflect on them often. You can even use it as a time for prayer for all the Christians who once fought alongside you but are now a distant friend on social media.
This should be considered as a spiritual discipline. We are, after all, forgetful.