David reminds us of a very important spiritual art: the art of remembrance, specifically the art of remembering Who God is and what He has done. Who can forget Who God is? Believers. Think of any time of crisis. When we panic, when we fear, when we worry, we’re forgetting Who our God is. Think of any time of blessing. When we take that blessing for granted, become complacent, or unthankful, we have forgotten who our God is. What is the cure? Actively not forgetting. What does it look like? Thanking and praising God.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: (Psalms 103:2)
This is exactly what David is doing in every verse of this psalm. First, he counsels himself: “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” The person you have the most conversations with is yourself and how you talk to yourself sets the tone not just for your day but for your life. One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to remind ourselves of how great and how good our God has been and is to us. Why are both important? Rehearsing how good God has been to us reminds us of our experience with Him. How many times has it thrilled your soul to think over God’s past blessings to you, and to think of those whom God has used to be a blessing to you? Remembering those things are part of what makes God realto us because it ties Him to historical events in our lives. When Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land, God had him set up a pillar of stones “according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel” (Joshua 4:5). Why? So that when their children asked the meaning of the stones, their fathers could rehearse for them the goodness of God in parting the river and granting them access to the Land of Promise (Joshua 4:6-7).
Rehearsing how God is good to us reminds us of our understanding of Him. Remembering that God continues to be good keeps us grounded when we are blessed and calm when we are in crisis. We like to quote Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ [who strengthens] me,” but we often forget that Paul said this as part of verse 12. They are meant to go together:
“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: [everywhere] and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12).
The strength Paul refers to in verse 13 is the strength to handle both blessing and need. As believers who often forget God, we usually don’t know how to handle either. Blessings fill us with complacency and hubris. Need often fills us with despair and depression. Paul always remember God’s goodness through everything, so his life and testimony were consistent in any situation. His circumstances never influenced his faith in God.
We are by nature (and by choice) forgetful creatures. The best cure for forgetfulness is exercising our remembrance muscle. There are three times in life when we should work that muscle out:
- When we’re blessed.
- When we’re in need.
- All the times in between.
Why am I describing remembrance as a muscle that needs working out? Because remembering Who our God is in every situation takes work and does not come naturally. David’s psalm shows us that remembering all God’s benefits is a conscious effort. We need to remind ourselves to do it and, like David, we need to encourage others to do the same. It is good to remember!
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