Remember the height from which you have fallen! (Rev. 2:5a NIV)
I am an optimist. I just am and sometimes that fact seems to be a source of irritation for those who are not so inclined. But I also am a realist. You can’t live as many years on the planet as I have, without recognizing (experiencing) that life is sometimes hard, hurtful, unfair and just plain tough. And difficult times are no respecter of persons. It happens to those with little faith and those with great faith. It happens to those who try hard to do the “right thing” and to those who play loose and easy with the rules. Sometimes you can see it coming, and sometimes it catches you unaware, draws you in close and sucker punches you right in the old bread basket. In recent days I have been punched.
I am not going to write an opinion on why I think difficult times happen. I do not think the scriptures try to explain why, except the general fallen-ness of the world into which we were born and the messiness of people. In fact Peter and others (First Peter 4:12) tell us not to be surprised at such things. Jesus, when referring to the tragedy of a tower falling and taking a number of lives (Luke 13:4) says the people affected by the tragedy were no different than anyone else, no better, no worse. Then He leaves us with the question which basically asks “so what are you going to do?” (my paraphrase).
So, tough and sometimes unfair times happen. The good news? We are not alone! The Comforter is with us. And one of the wonderful ways He comforts our hearts as He gently catches our tears, is through the spiritual gift of “remembering”. There are numerous verses that admonish us to remember. Below are just a few:
Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.” (Neh 4:14)
Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7’The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:6-8)
Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master. (John 15:20)
Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? (Matt 16:9)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2Cor.9:6)
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephes. 2:12-13)
Remember those earlier days after you had received the Light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. (Hebrews 10:32)
The younger brother in the prodigal son parable was obviously at a low point in his life when he found himself hungry, destitute, broken and friendless in a foreign land. With nowhere else to turn, he remembered his father. His poor choices and their painful outcome darkened his vision about who he really was at his very core. Then, somehow, in his pain, he remembered he was the son of his father, and discovered a higher definition of himself. He was more than his failures – he was his father’s son. He remembered the kindness and generosity of his father. By remembering his father’s heart hope awakened and humility was birthed. The dark veil over his eyes was torn and a holy desire came alive. What did he find when his remembering led him home? He found a father who met him on the road with compassion, acceptance, an affectionate kiss, forgiveness and restoration. He discovered that his father’s love for him never dampened, diminished or was dependent on his choices. His journey toward wholeness began with remembering the heart of his father – and so does ours.
The Revelations 2:5 verse that I used at the top of this blog is also about remembering. It is the holy remedy to verse 4’s heart felt, emotionally charged words “you have left your first love”. Verses 2 and 3 speak of this church’s endurance and perseverance. This may very well have been a church that had experienced very hard times. Their response evidently was to buckle down, work hard, clean house and stand guard again evil and heresy and not quit. Pretty admirable attributes I would say! But in their struggles they evidently lost their amazing Mary-sitting-at-the-feet-of-Jesus type of love relationship. Jesus was calling them to remember that what we most need in the midst of tough or discouraging relationships is Him. Nothing more, nothing less.
The book of Nehemiah give us a picture of how the enemy of our soul uses the weapons of discouragement and deception to undermine the work the Lord is doing both in us and through us. In vulnerable moments of discouragement we may be tempted to believe a lie. Sometimes a deceptive seed of doubt about God’s goodness or personal interest and involvement in our lives is sewn and the fruit of discouragement begins its life-sucking work of darkness. Or, we may attempt to soothe our heart aches by shear hard work or even by pursuing false comforts which always eventually end up empty.
The Lord in His kindness says “Remember Me”! Remember the days of your first love encounter with Me. Remember the freedom your felt when you knew your sins were forgiven and your new life began. Remember My character, My compassion, My mercy, My love words whispered in the night. Remember I Am for you, not against you. Remember I will never leave you nor forsake you. Remember my faithfulness. Remember – I change not!
Remembering and its counterpart gratitude (thanksgiving) awaken us to Truth. Truth, when listened to and embraced, in spite of our feelings or circumstances awakens freedom. Truth sets us free. The Lord is good!