Remembering to Restore

by Susannah Baker

The last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the topic of remembering.  I’ve started preparing for the Restore Retreat coming up February 2022, and I’ve been writing a workbook to accompany the book I am releasing in January, Restore: Remembering Life’s Hurts with the God Who Rebuilds.  I know we are all in need of some deep breaths and space to restore and rebuild after the last year and a half.

As I write, pray, ponder, and beg God to show me how to point people towards restoration in this day and age we live in, I keep coming back to this word remember.  And quite frankly, I don’t want to remember.  And I don’t want to ask you to remember the hard things about this past year, past season, or even decades of your life.  Can’t we all just move on and get on with the business of living?

Who wants to dredge up things from the past that only bring up unresolved pain or hurt?  But here is where I keep getting stuck.  God commands us to remember.  Many times throughout the Old Testament, God says, “Remember that you once were slaves,” or, “Remember that you came from Egypt.”  In other words, remember the personal suffering and pain of yourself and your people.  Because people who don’t remember…forget.

If we don’t remember, we forget where we came from and why we experience pain from the past in present day realities.  If we don’t remember, we forget why we are such great debtors to this God who loved us enough to save us and deliver us, even through the death of His very own Son.

But here is what I am also learning: before we begin to remember the pain of our own personal histories, we must first turn our eyes up and out to see the beauty, truth, goodness, holiness, justice, and righteousness of God Himself. This is how we begin to remember – we first look at God.

In her book, Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot quotes African missionary E. L. Langston as saying, “It is good for us to look at self and know how loathsome it is, but with one look at self we must take ten looks at Christ.”  

Many of our personal histories contain hard, dark, and ugly things. If we are going to remember in order to heal, we have to first learn to trust the One we are inviting into that history. Learning to trust the goodness and character of God enough to invite Him into our most personal moments and memories can take a long time. But we can learn how to begin that process of building trust gradually, step-by-step, day-by-day, memory-by-memory.

In Psalm 16:8-11, David writes,

“I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

As David chooses to set the Lord before Him and process all of his life, past, present, and future, in the presence of his good Father, his heart becomes glad, his whole being rejoices, and his flesh dwells secure.  Remembering his life in the presence of his Father doesn’t undo David; it’s the very thing that puts him back together.

But here is a key many of us need to remember as we consider embarking on the journey of restoration and remembering: the one thing David says God will not do is abandon him.

Before we embark on the journey of remembering, many of us need to hear this loud and clear: God will not abandon you.

Many of us have had important people in our lives who left and abandoned us when we needed them the most. Maybe they abandoned us because of an affair or an addiction. Maybe they abandoned us because they were consumed from pain from their own pasts and lacked time, resources, will, or strength to deal with that pain. Maybe they abandoned us by dying of sickness, illness, accident, or old age – the last thing they wanted to do was to leave us, but because of the curse of sin, and the weakness of their humanity, they were powerless against the enemy of death.

But God is not like other people, either in their sin or in their human weakness. He is perfect and holy, never making promises He cannot keep. He is a good father who is always faithful and always stays. He lived a perfect, sinless life and died the painful and shameful death on the cross so He could defeat our ultimate enemy of death. Yes, each of us must take one final breath here on this earth one day, but because of the resurrection, we will rise to new life and live forever with Him one day.

When we think about remembering the hard things in our lives and inviting God into those places, we need to know that we are promised an abundance of life, not a lack of it. We are promised a path that is stable and secure instead of living in fear the rug is going to be pulled out from beneath us. And we are promised the protection and provision of His presence; we don’t have to live in fear or dread of abandonment anymore.

This doesn’t mean we aren’t going to have to go to some hard places, but it does mean He will be with us every step of the way.

Psalm 23:1-4 says,

“The Lord is my shepherd,
I will not be in need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For the sake of His name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

As we begin the journey of restoration, we must remember what God promises to restore: our souls. God does not promise us in the here and now restored circumstances; that will come one day when we live with Him in our forever home. But what we are always promised are restored souls and renewed hearts.

But we must also remember that when the journey is the darkest, when the grief becomes the thickest, when the valley grows the deepest, His presence becomes incarnational. The psalmist doesn’t say, “He is with me;” he says, “You are with me.” You, in the flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus can take us where no other guides can go because He went where no other person has gone – He went to the gates of hell, the deepest valley of the shadow, and because He lived a sinless life, the gates couldn’t hold Him. He rushed up in resurrection to the other side, taking us and all other captives with Him.

This is our promise as we remember: yes, we will have to trudge through the valley, but Jesus will be with us every step of the way. And in the process, He will restore our souls and give us resurrection life in the place of our darkest despair.  As you consider the process of restoration, don’t forget to remember.  And know that in all of your remembering, with God at your right hand, your joy will abound.

Father,

It is hard work to remember, but as we remember with You by our side, we are promised the constancy of your presence, the restoration of our souls, and overflowing, abundant, resurrection life. Remind us of this in our darkest moments and give us strength for the journey ahead as we plan and prepare to remember.

In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

For more information about the upcoming retreat, February 11-13th, 2022, click HERE.

Registration opens next Wednesday, September 15th!  We would love to have you join us as we remember, restore, and rebuild together.