They say that our memories are the first thing to go… and apparently God agrees.
The third chapter of Joshua relates the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the promised land. In order to get all those people across from one side to the other, God stopped the flow of water. Instead of rushing by in torrent, the river piled up into a wall far upstream while the tribes walked across on dry land.
While the Jordan miracle was perhaps not quite of the same magnitude as the parting of the Red Sea, it was still an extremely significant milestone in the history of Israel. Moses led the people out of slavery; here Joshua is leading them into the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Such an important event needed to be remembered, so God instructed Joshua to have twelve men, one from each tribe, collect twelve stones from the middle of the river bed (See chapter 4). They carried these stones to their camp and set them up as a memorial. Joshua 4:24 explains, “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.”
Like the Israelites, we have short memories. We can fall on our faces to proclaim God’s glory one day, and manage to doubt Him the next. We too need memorials in our lives—tangible reminders of times when God demonstrated his power. Perhaps it was an answer to prayer, or provision in a time of need. Maybe He taught us an important lesson, or showed His love for us in a particularly convincing way.
We don’t need to have a rock pile in the backyard (although that might be a good idea). There are plenty of ways to remember what God has done on our behalf.
Because we are faith-supported missionaries (at least in part), Pete and I (semi-) regularly send out prayer letters. This morning I spent some time reading back over almost twenty years of stories about life’s challenges and God’s answers. Some events still stand out as major landmarks in our family history, while others have been mostly forgotten (and I forget more, the older I get!). The overwhelming impression, however, is one of God’s faithfulness. That puts our current trials into perspective.
Keeping some sort of record of God’s answers to our prayers is a faith-builder. When confronted with an obstacle, a need, or a scary situation, we can look back and remember how God has overcome, provided, or fought battles on our behalf. While He doesn’t always do what we think is best at the time, we can rest assured that he has our best interests at heart, and the situation is totally under His control.
In addition to the letters we send our supporters, I also keep a journal. Being private, it contains much more of the nitty-gritty of day to day life—my hopes and fears, times I trust and times of doubt, prayers and answers to prayers. I can go back and read where I was a month or a decade ago, and see where God has proven Himself trustworthy, over and over again. Therefore, I can trust Him now.
Both our letters and my journal are my memorial stones. What do you do to remember God’s faithfulness?