Remembering yesterday builds faith for tomorrow

Do you know what today is? Quite a few people probably do, but there’s a whole generation that probably doesn’t. Today is Pearl Harbor Day, the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US military base in Hawaii. It was ultimately what propelled the United States into World War II. We’re a very patriotic family. I have relatives who served in World War II, abroad and here at home, and it’s sobering to realize how many people think that December 7 is just another day.

Not in my family. World War II affected my family too extensively to ever let it fade from memory. But a lot of that is because we have made an effort to remember it. That’s part of what it means to memorialize something–to make the effort to remember it. If you don’t, you’ll forget. And when you forget the past, you often forget the lessons you learned because of it.


The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

Today’s verses are Joshua 4:4-7.

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”

This was something God told Joshua to do, and you have to appreciate that God understands how easily distracted we are. If we don’t have an object lesson or a symbol, it’s a lot harder for us to remember anything. That’s why memorials matter.

When you a memorial, you need to realize that someone just wants to remember something. That’s all a memorial is, whether it’s a museum or 12 stones from a riverbed. Sometimes the things we want to remember are good. Sometimes the things we need to remember are bad. But even remembering the bad things can be positive, because we remember how God saw us through or what God taught us through those difficult times.

My problem is that I get too busy to memorialize anything. I don’t take the time to build anything that will help me remember. The closest I get to it is notes in my little stand-up desk calendar. Or sometimes Facebook will remind me of something that happened in the past. And the result of that is I more easily forget what God has done for me. I am more easily distracted from God’s plan for my life because I’m too busy trying to figure out what my next step needs to be and I forget that He’s already got a plan made.

So today, I want to just stop and remember what He’s done for me. I want to build a memorial, so to speak, where I can look back and acknowledge the good and the bad and how it’s changed my life for the better.

It doesn’t take long. Just a few minutes. That thing that happened yesterday? That bad thing you didn’t enjoy? Mark it down. Remember it. Not in a sour way that will make you bitter. Just in a matter-of-fact way so you can look back on it in a few years and remember it, because in a few years it might just be the stepping stone you needed to help you achieve your dreams.

Don’t take anything for granted. Even the bad stuff. God’s big enough to use it all, so we need to have faith big enough to trust Him. And faith that size comes because you remember what He’s already done for you.

American flag flying on a skybox overlooking Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL


Twelve years ago today, about this time actually, I was heading out to an early class. It was my first year at college, and I was 1,000 miles from home on my own, attending an uber-strict, conservative Christian school. Radios and televisions weren’t allowed, so I didn’t get the news about the attack in New York until my mom called me. We all knew it was a big deal when the school decided to allow the few televisions there to be turned to news stations so we could all stay aware of what was happening in the world outside the protective bubble of the campus.

I remember first thinking it had to be some kind of accident because how could it be an attack? But when it became obvious that it was deliberate, when everyone realized what was happening, I remember the shock and the cold horror I felt, and I remember it clearly enough that it could have been yesterday. It’s hard to believe it’s been twelve years. And if you talk to a freshman in college now, they probably won’t remember it at all. I think that’s what shocks me the most. I mean, the average freshman in college is going to know it happened, but they won’t remember it because they experienced it as small children.

It’s strange how tragedy can unite a nation. The US hadn’t been that together on anything probably since Pearl Harbor. But human memory is short. And twelve years later, as a nation we stand even more fractured and divided and lost than we ever were before, because even the people who have a responsibility to remember have forgotten. If I focus on that, I get discouraged. If I think about what could have happened in response to 911, I get sad. But being sad and discouraged isn’t why I want to remember 911.

American flag flying on a skybox overlooking Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

American flag flying on a skybox overlooking Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Today’s verses are Psalm 121.

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

Tragedy comes in all shapes and sizes and God allows it into our lives for many reasons, the most obvious being that it’s the only way we will search for Him (Acts 17:27). Twelve years ago today, we were attacked and 3,000 people lost their lives. But during the attacks and after the attacks, God hadn’t gone anywhere. Yes, He pulled back His hand for a moment and allowed the attacks to happen. That’s His sovereign right, but don’t think for a moment it was something He wanted.

When the dust settled, people wanted answers. They wanted it all to make sense. So they started reaching out for Him, and some of them found Him and held on. 911 changed everyone. And even though we have changed and our country has changed and the world has changed in 12 years, God is still the same. He will still do what is necessary to draw people to Him because He’s better than the lives they would choose to live on their own. And after we crawl out of the dust of the ruins of our choices, He will be there to help us pick up the pieces.

That’s what I want to remember about 911. Yes, I want to remember the people who died. I want to remember the people who sacrificed, not only in New York City but afterward too. I want to remember how the country stood united in a time a darkness. But most of all I want to remember that God didn’t leave us to deal with the tragedy on our own. He was there the whole time.

No matter what tragedy or difficulty you’re facing in your life right now, it’s not too big for God. You can know there’s a reason for it. Maybe the only reason is that God wants you to reach out to Him. That’s between you and Him. But no matter what you choose, no matter where you are or where you’re going, God is big enough to go with you and He’s strong enough to help you through any challenge.

The tragedies in our lives are only meaningless if we forget their purpose. I remember 911. I remember being scared and alone, and I remember God becoming more real to me in those moments than He ever had before. And ever since that day, I know when I’m going through something difficult, He will be there right beside me to help me.

So don’t forget.