While God will never forget or abandon us, at times we will feel forgotten. It’s not that God is distant; it’s just that sometimes He feels distant. It’s not that God is preoccupied; it’s just that our struggles make us feel like we’re facing the world alone. What is amazing is that we are given full permission to voice this honestly.
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” David lamented. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” — Psalm 13:1–2
We are allowed and invited to tell God how we really feel. This is the beauty of lament — unedited, unfiltered real talk that allows God to meet us right where we are. When we feel like we’ve been forgotten or left behind, we can express it openly. And then we can remind God of His promises to us.
We can echo right back to Him the things He has said to us.
The idea of reminding God of something may sound strange — after all, He is God, and He doesn’t forget the things He has told us! But reminding God of the promises He has made helps us to remember them and reassures us that He can be trusted to keep them.
The Hebrew words for “remember” — zakar — and “not forget” — lo shakach — are both in an active tense. These are “doing” verbs! Remembering is not a passive reflection, but a bold action of calling God’s truth into the present. This practice is found in both the Old and New Testaments.
Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s provision throughout forty years of wilderness wanderings, so they could hold on to hope in their present (Deuteronomy 8:2). Jesus told the disciples at the Last Supper, on the eve of His crucifixion, to practice remembering:
When He had given thanks, He broke [the bread] and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me’. — 1 Corinthians 11:24
We are even told to remember the Sabbath day. I find it amazing that God has to command us to not forget about rest:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. — Exodus 20:8
He knows we need it! Remembering is an active tool to reignite our faith. As we wait on Him, He actively renews the strength necessary for us to persevere (Isaiah 40:31).
What’s more, the practice of remembrance leads our hearts into thanksgiving for the past and hope for the future.
Has God promised something to you in Scripture that you have yet to see fulfilled? Remind Him. Here are a couple of the promises I pray back to God:
- ‘I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord. — Jeremiah 30:17
Father, please give me health and healing. You said You would restore me. Please do not delay Your healing. Please bring Your healing touch to my emotional scars.
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3:5–6
Father, help me to trust in You. I don’t understand You, which makes it hard to trust You. You said You would make my paths straight. Please help. Show me the path You have for me.
This kind of reminding is not for God’s sake, but for our sake. It will help us to not forget our covenant-keeping God. It is so like God to invite us to remind Him of His promises when He knows that, in the end, we are the ones who benefit by doing so. When we remind Him, we remember Him for who He truly is.
This makes me think of the kind of relationship a child has with her parent. “Remember you said you would take me out for ice cream if I practiced my piano for a whole hour?” “Don’t forget that you promised to help me with my homework tonight.” In the intimate relationship between parent and child, the child is not afraid to bring up a promise made. The reminder conveys the child’s trust that the parent will do what he or she has said they will do.
In the same way, calling to mind God’s promises is an act of faith in the fact that He will do what He says He will do. If we feel like God has forgotten us, then we have a great opportunity to dive into Scripture and refresh our memory of who He is and what He promises to those who follow Him.
Nehemiah is a biblical leader who models this prayer of remembrance. He was a cupbearer in the palace of the king of Persia — a humble, yet important job. Yet as he appeared before the king one day, he outwardly displayed his emotions.
The people of Israel had a temple in Jerusalem, which was under Persian rule at the time, and their enemies were crowding them on all sides. They needed protection. They needed a rebuilt wall, which had been broken and burned down, so they could worship in peace and safety. Jerusalem was God’s holy city, and yet it lay in ruins. God’s people were without their home. This was a burden on Nehemiah’s heart.
He had been praying to God to remind Him of His covenant promises:
Remember the instruction You gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’” — Nehemiah 1:8–10
And then he decided to make his move. The book of Esther tells us emotion was banned from the king’s courts (Esther 4:2), yet Nehemiah did not hold back his emotion. He let his sadness show in full force. And instead of punishing Nehemiah, the king was actually moved by Nehemiah’s somber countenance. He said to him, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart” (Nehemiah 2:2). Nehemiah’s courage shows us how God can use even sadness to move a king.
Even though he was “very much afraid” (verse 2), Nehemiah replied, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (verse 3).
Then the king made an astonishing reply: “What is it you want?” (verse 4).
Nehemiah knows the stakes are high, and he knows he can’t get through this without God’s help. So right there in the king’s presence, he prays and then answers the king: “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it” (verse 5).
Even more astonishing, the king said yes! He granted Nehemiah permission to travel to Jerusalem, recruit and lead a construction crew, and rebuild the city’s walls. There are so many great themes in this story — courage, faith, leadership, and the reward of hard work. Yet what most strikes me is Nehemiah’s prayer language as he leads this audacious mission.
Remembering God and reminding God to remember him were important parts of Nehemiah’s vocabulary the entire time of the rebuilding:
Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome. — Nehemiah 4:14
Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people. — Nehemiah 5:19
I like to think that Nehemiah’s prayers to God that reminded Him of His promises gave him fresh hope and motivation for the job at hand.
God’s promises are energizing; they give us courage, and courage helps us get moving to do what needs to be done.
I imagine his construction team got caught up in this energy as well — following Nehemiah’s example and feeling his influence.
And they needed courage. The enemy tribes on all sides were beginning to notice the rebuilding project, and they didn’t like it. First they simply mocked the Jews, but then they rallied their armies for an evening attack. But Nehemiah’s men were ready. Nehemiah divided them into builders and fighters who stood alert with shields and spears. I can only imagine that their ready confidence sprang from the assurance that God was with them and their certainty that they were God’s people doing His work. They remembered God’s promises, and it equipped them to do His work with heart and with hope.
None of it was wasted! Only fifty-two days later, the wall was successfully rebuilt. The exiles could come home to dwell in their city once again. They could worship God at His temple in peace.
Nehemiah’s lament was not wasted either. For the same man who displayed his deep sorrow to the king now displayed his great joy to the King of kings. As the people gathered in Jerusalem for feasting and celebration, Nehemiah declared,
This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. — Nehemiah 8:10
Nehemiah had practiced remembering the character and promises of God, and his faith did not disappoint. His grief had turned to joy, and joy had turned to strength.
Feasting will come again, but we are not supposed to get to the feast by forgetting the fast. It’s okay to feel forgotten, but like Nehemiah, remember to wait and long for the fulfillment of God’s promises to you. Go ahead and remind God! And in doing so, may you be reminded of His love for you and refreshed anew.
He is your strength, even as you wait.
Excerpted with permission from No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece, copyright Esther Fleece.
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What do you need to remind God (and yourself) that He promised you? I’m reminding Him that He promised to strengthen me and uphold me (Isaiah 41:10). If you’re struggling while waiting, recall what He said in His Word and tell Him your whole heart. Remind yourself of His love for you even if you can’t feel it right now. He hasn’t changed and He hasn’t forgotten. You are safe in His hands! Come join the conversation on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full