Examining the Past

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

// psalm 143:5-6

David grasped what I so often fail to grasp.

In the midst of chaos, it’s easy to despair. The storm clouds come rolling in, and all I see are those dark thunderheads of doom. The rain comes, and all I feel are those pelting needles of cold water against my skin. The lightning strikes, and all I see are black spots of blindness flickering across my vision.

I grow overwhelmed, and it feels like there’s no hope. This is it. This is the end.

I forget God’s promises.

We see this same dynamic in our Israelite predecessors on their extended journey to the Promised Land (and when I say extended I mean hundreds and hundreds of years). All throughout Exodus, we see God rescue His people, only to be greeted by more groans and complaints. Every single time a new suffering was presented to the Israelites, they doubted God’s goodness. They doubted His mercy and His love for them. They lashed out at each other and their leaders (Exodus 17:1-6). They built themselves new idols (Exodus 32). They complained of not being comfortable, of getting tired of the food God had provided to them (Exodus 16 and Numbers 11:4-6).

I cannot help but be convicted as I examine these passages. When I am faced with some small inconvenience, certainly nothing to the extent of slavery and wandering in the wilderness for hundreds of years, I lash out. I immediately doubt God’s goodness. I try to find hope and satisfaction in things other than Him, whether that’s social media, drowning out the noise with nonstop activity, or even laziness. I complain and grumble. A lot. I refuse to recognize the blessings God has showered on me.

Admittedly, there’s a lot of dirt being kicked up in my soul as I write this.

The thing that the Israelites and all Jesus-followers throughout history (including us – we’re not exempt from this hard-heartedness) forget is how incredibly faithful our Lord is. Time and time again, He has brought us safely through the storm. He has picked us up off the ground and set our feet on paths of righteousness. He has loved us. Oh, how He has loved us!

The devil would have us forget the past. He would have us blindly focused on the here and now and nothing but the here and now. He would have us bury our heads in the sand so that all we see is our current predicament. He would shut our hearts to how God has redeemed us in the past, and how He has promised to redeem us in the future. He would have us forget Jesus’ words, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

There is a time and place for forgetting the past. However, the past is incredibly valuable for understanding all that God has done for us. Even remembering our past sins, not in guilt but in thanksgiving, reveals to us the enormity of God’s grace by recognizing how fallen we once were without Him. When we remember where we’ve been, we see how far God has taken us. We remember His promises, and we remember His faithfulness.

Jesus was left alone on that cross so that we would never have to experience that loneliness. God has always been with us, and He’s not about to stop now. And so with the psalmist we can sing with outstretched hands that our soul thirsts for the Lord. We look back at all He has done, and trustingly – humbly – believe that He will get us through the present storm and every storm that’s yet to come.


Song recommendation: “Blessings” by Laura Story

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