June 18, 2008

Behind and Before 
by Katherine Peters, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits." 
psalm 103:2

I get preoccupied with the present sometimes, and forget to survey the past. It's one of those "can't see the forest for the trees" things, especially in times of change (read, "now"). The constantly changing details of day-to-day life keep clamoring for my attention, and the events on the horizon (read, "marriage, moving, and other madness") drown out everything else. In a word, I get overwhelmed.

But a miracle happens every time the craziness threatens to overtake me. The Holy Spirit will bring to mind these verses in psalm 103: "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget His benefits." His benefits? After I pause for a minute, the Lord whispers His faithfulness to me in the past, reminding me that He has always been faithful and always will be. He begins to remind me of specific ways He's taken care of me, and then I begin to think - hey, wow, God has done awesome things. We have to take time to remember these past benefits, or else the present gets in the way of remembering grace. And when that happens, we forget to do what we were made for - praising God. To help me remember, I wrote down some specific "benefits" from my past:

  • Provision
    • David and I have a house, not just an apartment, that we can afford. That's more than we could have asked for. (vs. 5)
    • Through a weird series of events, I managed to get - and keep - a sizeable scholarship that let me graduate college without worrying about how I would pay for each semester.
    • The year my dad's business wasn't going so well, friends supplied us with toys for Christmas so we could avoid using credit cards.
  • Health
    • Well, I'm breathing, aren't I? Simple as that is, God sustains my every breath, even though I am "like grass that withers." (vs. 15)
    • My mom became increasingly weaker throughout my high school and college years, thanks to an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder. Now, her laughter is quicker and her energy is as high as ever. (vs. 3)
  • Compassion
    • My parents became believers after they were married - and incredibly, God brought them into his family at about the same time, so my family grew up with two parents who were undivided. (vs. 13)
    • I pulled through a season of depression to see the world as far more joyous and full of miracles than ever before. (vs. 4)
    • Sure, my fiancé and I disagree at times - but we are united in Christ.
  • Fellowship
    • In my loneliest times, God has always brought in one or two true friends just when I thought they didn't exist.
    • Wedding season has showed me just how many willing hands surround me, and how many people have prayed for me.
  • Salvation
    • This is the only one that's needed, but the magnitude of what it means to be "redeemed from the pit" often escapes me. I am a redeemed child of God, snatched out of my sins and not given what I deserve. (vs. 10) This alone is reason to "Praise the Lord" for forever. How can I let myself forget that the God of the universe has brought me into His presence and cares about me enough to die for me?

And this list is just the big things. There's no way I could even remember all of the smaller mercies. If I just wrote down how God showed His kindness yesterday, the list would be huge. The Lord's mercies never fail, as Jeremiah wrote. (lam. 3:23) My new job, new church, new lifestyle, and everything else is nestled in the context of these past benefits. And then, instead of getting anxious, I find myself excited to see how God will show His faithfulness again and in new ways.

I think memory is God's gift to us to help bolster our faith. The past is a constant reminder of what God has brought us through and what He will continue to do for the rest of our lives. Even the hard times fit into the context of His amazing grace

Intersecting Faith & Life: My mom still has the key to that totaled Honda as a reminder. Find ways to keep yourself constantly aware of what God has done, so that we always have a reason to praise the Lord with everything we have. Make a list, or just take five minutes at the end of the day to let the Holy Spirit bring to mind the ways God has worked. He will.

Further Reading

psalm 139:5 - "You hem me in - behind and before."