When God Wants You to Remember the Hard Times

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I just typed in “remember” on a Bible search engine. The “suggested result” was Lamentations 3:19: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.” Awesome. My afflictions, wanderings, bitterness and gall are clearly what I want to be remembering.

January and February mark the one-year anniversary of what were likely two of the hardest months of my life. My natural tendency would be to try and ignore this anniversary, after all, who wants to remember pain? But unfortunately—or maybe fortunately—my body will not let me forget. I am quite aware that the knots in my stomach and recent dreams of being in Monterrey, Mexico are clear signs that my body is remembering what my mind would rather forget.

I had served in Monterrey from 2007 to 2009 and then returned to the States for 2 ½ years of seminary.  In October of 2012, I moved back to Monterrey, committed to serve there for at least the next five years. I was so excited to be going back “home” to this place and people that I had fallen so deeply in love with. I had a job lined up, a house to live in, ministry awaiting me, and delicious piratas (homemade flour tortillas with melted cheese and chopped up steak inside, covered with cilantro and grilled onions and salsa verde on top) waiting to be eaten. It felt like a dream come true.

Things did not go according to plan, though, and what I assumed would be a life-giving time of fruitful ministry slowly turned into a deep season of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and darkness.

Through counseling that started during my first month back in Monterrey, Jesus began pulling back layers and layers of malformation from my previous 27 years and began to reform me. Until January and February of last year, I was able to balance life and ministry in Mexico with all of the inner stirrings coming out of my time in counseling. But the culmination of a full-time job, teaching, leading Bible studies, and being the only missionary on the field combined with the anxiety and depression led me to surrender and confess that I could not do it anymore.

I could not process and heal in another country by myself, and do regular life on top of that. My counselor and several close friends suggested I return to the States for what I thought would be a six-month season of deeper healing. As it turns out, you can’t really put a timeline on healing.
So I left Monterrey on February 27 of 2014. That decision was probably one of the best I have ever made, albeit extremely painful and hard.

I am still in process. It is still hard, and there are still days I struggle with anxiety and depression. I do believe (and have believed throughout this whole process), though, that there is an invitation amidst the pain—in this case, an invitation to remember. The Old Testament, especially Deuteronomy, is filled with the Lord telling Israel to remember. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.” Over and over and over again He tells them. I can’t imagine that the Israelites found joy or delight in remembering the suffering that accompanied their time in Egypt.

But the second part of the command is to remember that the Lord was their deliverer. He is the one who rescued them, who brought them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. Could they remember their deliverance without remembering where they came from or what they had walked through? I’m not sure.

The invitation to remember the pain only for the sake of remembering is not the purpose. The purpose is to remember the Lord’s faithfulness amidst the pain. His consistency. His love—before, during, and after. It is for healing. And hope. And redemption.

The years of remembering parts of my childhood have not been easy. These months of remembering leaving Monterrey will probably not be easy either. But I know that there is still an open invitation from the One who rescued me from darkness—an invitation to allow Him to walk with me through the memories of the past years. The verses following Lamentations 3:19 are ones I will continue to cling to:

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. I think the most difficult question to answer when God puts His finger on a painful memory and stirs the event rather forgotten is: “Why now?” The Lord’s timing is very curious. How important is our limited understanding? Do we deceive ourselves when we continue to bury our painful memories? Although the past cannot be changed, could something that occurred from sin years ago have present value? THEN I REMEMBER THE CROSS AND ITS POTENTIAL TO CLEANSE AND REDEEM. It is too wonderful to comprehend; so we wait for the efficacy in salvation called sanctification, knowing all the while we do not deserve the price that Jesus paid for our adoption. Thanks be to God!

  2. I seem to hear a lot of friends preaching and platituding lately that we are to forget the past, press on to the future, don’t look back, “remember not the former things,” move forward, etc. I always say to myself, “But I remember my days of bondage and how the Lord brought me out. I remember His goodness in the time of great trial.” That piece, IMHO, is essential to worship. I wish my friends would remind people to do BOTH.

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