How to Glorify God with Our Memories

I am 29 years old. Several years ago I first spoke the words, “That happened a decade ago,” and it was the strangest sensation. Now I’m starting to reminisce on things that happened fifteen, even twenty years ago, and it’s flat out kooky.

Another development I’ve noticed in recent years is the influx of nostalgia. In high school and college I had fond memories, but not many were nostalgic. Now ten seconds of Secondhand Serenade reduces me to a puddle of reminiscent goo.

Memories have power, and what we dwell on will invariably shape our emotions, attitudes, and beliefs (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:8). Because of their unique power, we must be intentional with how we use them. Thankfully, God’s Word gives us much direction on how we can channel our memories for good.

Voluntary or involuntary?

Memories are complex. Some memories flood our minds involuntarily, such as those triggered by abuse or trauma. In these cases, much healing and help can come through the guidance of a therapist or another medical professional.

However, many of the memories we fixate on are voluntary, within our ability to control. In fact, God commands us to be intentional with our memories and even selective with what we choose to dwell on (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:12; 8:2; Isaiah 46:9; John 14:26; Acts 20:35; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26; Ephesians 2:11-13). Just as we are to take our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), so too are we to take our memories captive.

How can we ensure that the memories we fixate on bring glory to God and life to ourselves and others? Consider five questions to help you determine whether dwelling on a particular memory is helpful.

1. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my gratitude?

Gratitude is the crown jewel of recollection, turning good memories into ongoing blessings (Proverbs 10:7). C.S. Lewis put it best in Out of the Silent Planet:

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmán, as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.

God created memories to consummate the joy of praiseworthy moments and to lead us into grateful praise (Philippians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This gives us a quick test to determine whether dwelling on a particular memory is profitable: Does replaying this moment in your mind lead to gratitude for what you once had or discontentment for what you now have?

Interestingly, the tenth commandment (“Do not covet”) applies here. We tend to think of coveting as inordinately longing for something someone else has. But a more subtle form of coveting is inordinately longing for what we once had (or wish we once had). Both forms must be repented of—and both are best combatted with gratitude.

2. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my hope?

Remembrance is the linchpin of hope. Much of our disorientation in life is a product of forgetfulness—forgetfulness of who we are, who God is, what Christ did, how God views us, where we came from, or where we are going. Conversely, it is when our memories are most saturated with these realities that our hearts are most full.

Arguably the best way to combat inordinate longings for the past is to remember that our best moments in life are mere appetizers of what is to come. We don’t need to cling to an appetizer when the main course—of similar pleasure but greater fullness—is coming.

Often we think our longings are pointing backward when in reality they’re pointing forward. The ultimate fulfillment of our longings won’t come by going back to the past; they will come through God’s provisions in the future (Psalm 16:11). Rest in this hope!

3. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my commitment to truth?

George Ball observed, “Nostalgia is a seductive liar.” Often our memories play tricks on us, tempting us to believe that the past was better than it actually was. Solomon warns us of this danger in Ecclesiastes 7:10, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

The ultimate danger of feeding nostalgia is not the immediate pain of longing for the past, but the damaging effect that it can have on our beliefs. Dwelling on skewed memories (whether exaggerated positively or negatively) can twist our view of God, others, and ourselves. We must catechize ourselves with God’s Word, not with our nostalgia. Memories will fail; God’s Word won’t (Matthew 24:35).

4. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my love for others?

Memory is gasoline without favoritism; it will fuel the fires of both bitterness and love, wherever we choose to pour it. Every time we dwell on someone’s past sin—replaying the memory of their offense again and again in our minds—we water the seed of bitterness in our hearts and it grows. This may feel good for a moment, but it always ends up harming us in the long run. It has been said that entertaining bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, and this is certainly the case with dwelling on bitter memories.

Meanwhile, intentionally recalling the good in others (and God’s mercy and love toward us) is one of the best ways to stir up love and compassion in our hearts (Luke 6:35-36). Just as God loves us by not keeping our sin on the forefront of his mind, so we are called to love others by filling our minds with praiseworthy things (Philippians 4:8).

5. Does dwelling on this memory deepen my love for the Triune God?

Remembering is at the heart of our communion with God and our liturgy as the Church. Preaching, singing, and reading Scripture help us remember the words and promises of God (Psalm 119:11; Proverbs 7:1-3). Taking communion helps us remember the person and work of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Observing baptism helps us remember how we were brought from death to life by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:4; 8:11).

Ultimately, God gave us memory to aid our love for him, our appreciation for what he has done, and our anticipation of what is to come. Let’s be faithful to use our memories for these purposes—for God’s glory and our good.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies)Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “Overcoming Fear of the Future” here.

Read “Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

Christian, You Are Fully Known And Fully Loved

There is perhaps nothing more desirable than to be fully known—completely seen and understood—and yet still loved. As Ed Welch put it, “To be truly known with nothing to hide … is life at its best.” 

Yet, while the prospect of being known brings excitement, it also instills fear. As Tim Keller put it, “To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.”

This paradox of emotions is what prompts us to be transparent up to a point but to stop short of full disclosure. We seek to share enough of ourselves to make us feel like we are loved and accepted for who we really are, but not enough to risk being rejected. Some walk this tight rope for decades. Yet, deep down, most of us sense that we were created for more.

To find clarity amid this paradox, we must understand where our desire comes from, where our fear comes from, and how the gospel speaks unrivaled hope into this clash of emotions.

Exploring Our Desire

While Scripture doesn’t tell us much about humanity before the fall, the Holy Spirit does give us two words to help us understand our sinless condition: naked and unashamed (Gen. 2:25). In other words, before sin, humans lived in the blissful freedom of being perfectly known and accepted by God and one another, without any fear or shame. Fully known, fully loved.

This glorious state is not only our origin; it’s also our destiny. One day we will know and be known fully, in a world of perfect love (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 13:12-13).

The first step in finding clarity amid our conflicting emotions is to recognize that our desire to be fully known is not sinful, but rather a healthy longing to relate to God and others in the way God intended. It is a God-given expression of our humanity.

Exploring Our Fear

After sin entered the world, our state of “naked and unashamed” was immediately replaced with a state of “hiding and afraid.” In the words of Adam, “I was afraid because I was naked. So, I hid” (Gen. 3:10). In the blink of an eye, the thought of being known morphed from a comfort to a threat. Tragically, this became the new normal.

At the heart of our fear of being known is a fear of rejection. And the most painful form of rejection is not being rejected for something we did, but for who we are. Notice that Adam does not say, “I was afraid because I ate the fruit.” He says, “I was afraid because I was naked.”

Adam’s sin plunged him into a deep sense of personal inadequacy and unworthiness. His sin created a separation between him and God and between him and Eve (Isaiah 59:2). He tried to repair this brokenness by covering up his shame, but it didn’t work. Even with his self-made covering, he still felt afraid (Gen. 3:8).

We’ve all felt this. Even in the moments that we think we’ve successfully hidden our flaws, we still don’t feel secure. In fact, hiding often amplifies our insecurity and anxiety (Proverbs 10:9). If hiding cannot give us the freedom we long for, what can?

The Gospel: “I know you and I still love you”

Perhaps there is no more comforting word in all of Scripture than the word “still” in Romans 5:6-8:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Notice the recipients of God’s love: weak, ungodly, sinners. Next, notice the timing of God’s love: God loves us while we are still weak, ungodly, sinners.

This passage corrects at least two common misconceptions about God’s love. First, it makes it clear that Christ’s death didn’t “persuade” the Father to love sinners. That is not the gospel. God does not love you because Jesus died for you; Jesus died for you because God loves you! Second, this passage reaffirms that God is not waiting until you “do better” to start loving you. His love doesn’t fluctuate with your always-changing performance. According to Romans 5:6-8, God loves you perfectly, even at your worst.

The beauty of the gospel is not that we are strong and sinless, but that God loves us and rescues us while we are still weak and sinful (which, in turn, motivates and empowers us to pursue new obedience). As A.W. Tozer put it:

Jesus Christ came not to condemn you but to save you—knowing your name, knowing all about you, knowing your weight right now, knowing your age, knowing what you do, knowing where you live, knowing what you ate for supper and what you will eat for breakfast, where you will sleep tonight, how much your clothing cost, who your parents were. He knows you individually as though there were not another person in the entire world. He died for you as certainly as if you had been the only lost one. He knows the worst about you and is the One who loves you the most.

God’s message for you is this: I know everything about you. I know you are weak. I know you are ungodly. I know you are sinful. But I still love you. No, not after you clean yourself up. Not after you are glorified. Now.

True freedom

True freedom comes not when we have successfully hidden; it comes when we realize that we have been found out, but are still accepted, through God’s gracious love and forgiveness. Through faith in Christ—and by living in continual, true repentance—despite our weaknesses and sins, we can once again enjoy the freedom of being fully known and fully loved.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies)Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Listen to “Fully Known, Fully Loved” here.

Read “Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

When God’s Impatience is Good News

“So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” (Judges 10:16, NKJV)

Bursting through the dark backdrop of the time of the Judges and Israel’s cyclical rebellion, God’s heart for his people is put on brilliant display. In just one verse, we get a stirring glimpse into the much-needed impatience which God the Father perpetually feels—not toward his children, but toward their suffering.

Like an intricate tapestry, God’s patience and impatience are woven together in the most unusual yet beautiful of unions. While God’s heart is wrought with “patience” toward sinners (2 Pe. 3:9), it is also heavy with “impatience” toward the suffering of his people (Jdg. 10:16, ESV).

Far from being distant, our God is “inwardly moved during our sufferings and trials with a sense and fellow-feeling of them” (John Owen). He knows every tear we cry (Ps. 56:8) and he longs to turn every tear into joy (Ps. 126:5). God simply cannot put up with our suffering forever.

God’s faithfulness is drenched in his empathy. And one day, God’s impatience will become our deliverance — he will wipe away every tear forever (Rev. 21:4), and bring us into a world of undying joy. His soul cannot bear to do otherwise.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois. You can find more of his work at The Gospel Coalition.