A time to remember and a time to forget is not explicitly mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3, the passage which tells us that there is a time for everything. Nevertheless, the Scriptures have a great deal to tell us about the significance of remembering and forgetting. What may be surprising though, is that some of the things that we would like to remember are things that we are told to forget and vice versa.
The end of a year is a good time to take inventory of our lives, including our goals, our hopes, and our vision. We should examine what really matters to us as we approach the new year. What can we do to ensure continued spiritual growth in the new year?
In ancient times, “standing stones” were used as memorials, sometimes representing God’s dwelling or a significant event. Jacob set up “standing stones” as memorials at least four times. (Genesis 28:18; 31:45–52; 35:14, 20). These “standing stones” would serve as a reminder, both to the one who set them in place, as well as to others as a testimony to God. When the Bible tells us to not forget, it is another way of encouraging us to remember. It is especially important for us to remember God’s faithfulness after we have come through trials and difficulties. Our testimony should never be that we have never had a problem because that is unrealistic and unbelievable to most people. Our testimony should be that God was faithful during our adversity.
As we take a moment to contemplate the past year, what are some of the things that should come to mind? There are dozens, if not hundreds, but let us examine just a few of them.
Then they remembered his words. Luke 24:8 (NIV)
The disciples had endured the trauma of the crucifixion. Their expectations, their hopes, and their dreams, seemingly shattered. Although Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, somehow, they had forgotten or did not understand. If the past year has been filled with trauma for you, it is time for you to remember his words. Among God’s words is the promise, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT). If at the end of this year, you realize that you have been shaken: Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. Proverbs 4:5 (NLT)
Remember that my life is but a breath… Job 7:7 (CSB)
I confess that I grow a little irritated at the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I can’t wait for this year to be over.” First, there is nothing magical about the first day of the year or turning the calendar over. The problems that we have on December 31 do not magically disappear on January 1. Secondly, we have a command to Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:16 (NLT)
Perhaps it is because I am growing older, but each year seems to pass more quickly than the previous one. We are stewards of the gifts that God has given us, and time is one of those gifts. Instead of wishing it to pass by quickly, we must redeem the time and use it wisely. I understand the frustrations that occur when times are difficult and yet this is the time of great opportunity.
Remember the wondrous works he has done, all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared— 1 Chronicles 16:12 (CEB)
It may require a little more effort in the year that has been trying for many people, but God is still doing wondrous works. He is still pouring out his spirit. He is still healing the sick. He is still proclaiming liberty to those who are in bondage. Each breath that we breathe is a gift from God, so give him glory.
These are just a few examples of what we should remember, not just at the end of the year but all of the time. This should also be a time of forgetting, but it is not just our defeats and failures that we want to put behind us, but even our victories and success.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18–19 (NIV)
If the past year has been filled with triumphs and good memories, we might be inclined to dwell here a little longer. This too is a trap. In Philippians 3, Paul recites his heritage and his achievements, but he is not content to rest there. He keeps pressing on to the goal: …I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13–14 (NLT)
Yesterday’s blessings are like manna. They have a limited shelf life. Although there is comfort to be found in the familiar, our call is to keep moving forward. God is doing new things!
I am not big on New Year’s resolutions. When God speaks to us about something that needs to change, whether we are in December or July, we should immediately act. One resolution that I heartily approve of is found in the words of an old hymn:
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
Finally, let us take the time to remember just how God has been good to us, even when it is difficult. Let us remember who we are in Christ and what he has called us to do. God is always faithful!