Spiritual Amnesia

These days, I’m great at forgetting. Walk into my life, and you’ll find dollar-store reading glasses stashed in every couch cushion and drawer, but I can never find them. I waste too much time looking for my keys and the remote. I search for last names in a cracked memory bank. What I should probably look for are brain supplements hawked on infomercials. If only it were that simple.

That kind of forgetfulness happens with age, but there’s another, more serious kind of memory loss. It’s called spiritual amnesia: forgetting what God has done—Who He is, what He promises.

Spiritual amnesia is one of Satan’s most toxic lies. It shatters fragile faith, causes doubt and makes us question God’s work in our lives.

There’s plenty in our world to make us wonder if God has forgotten us. Spiritual amnesia flourished through the challenges of COVID-19 when good news became harder to find than toilet paper, isolation fueled loneliness, weeks stretched into months, and it seemed like the world would never be the same.

Spiritual amnesia is more dangerous than the events that surround us. It’s an ancient, chronic disease that goes way back to the Old Testament. The Israelites suffered from it in epidemic proportions. They forgot so fast. They had barely walked through the Red Sea when they began to think God had abandoned them.

God sent manna from heaven for them to eat, and they demanded meat. Manna seemed like the perfect diet. No one had to cook or store it. For some reason, they longed for the leeks and garlic they ate in Egypt. Yuck. How quickly they forgot it came with chains of slavery.

According to Numbers 11, the Israelites gathered around their tents in water-cooler fashion to complain about God. But here’s the thing: The Israelites are not abnormal. They are like us.

God pursues us, saves us from the shipwreck of our lives, restores and redeems us. Yet we find reasons to doubt He sees and cares.

I’m guilty. It begins like this: “The world I s...” “My kids are ...” “My job is ...” “I wish ....” It’s an attitude of want rather than one of thankfulness for all the blessings God gives every day.

Spiritual amnesia is rarely a one-time ailment. The Israelites battled it after the Red Sea, in the desert, in the wilderness and as they camped on the border of the Promised Land. When the spies described giants living in the land, fear smothered trust in God. They couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t take the land.

They had the ability to remember but chose to forget. How quickly could you forget the buzz of billions of flies, water turned to blood, the thunder of ribbits from millions of frogs, the itch of lice, the pain of boils, the fear of total darkness for three days or the wail of Egyptians as the angel of death moved through their homes?

Sounds impossible. Yet I do the same thing. I don’t find it easy to trust or wait for God. I whine, which is the worst form of complaining. I fret. I doubt. I know God has worked in unbelievable ways to rescue, redeem and restore. But I forget He is always at work.

What on earth would life be like if we remembered that God sees, cares and walks with us, no matter what?

At the end of the days on mission trips near and far, we often ask each other at the debrief, “Where did you see God today?”

The truth is, if you seek, you will find.

One night, I followed a mission crew taking hot coffee and sandwiches to homeless camps around Louisville. We walked in the dark holding flashlights on rough paths to clusters of tents hidden from the community. One volunteer got down on his knees at a tent flap he’d visited many times before, offered steaming coffee, sandwiches and a Bible.

“Hey, do you remember that God loves you?” he asked.

Silence for a few seconds.

Then the man’s answer: “I know, but sometimes I forget.”

Me too.

The cure for spiritual amnesia is simple.

Remember how God answered your prayer. Remember how God saved you from disaster. Remember those who have encouraged you. Remember how God miraculously healed your heart. Remember how God provides what you need.

During the pandemic, I often begin the day with these words adapted from Psalm 103: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all my sins, and heals all my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion.”

Ruth Schenk is a contributing writer for The Southeast Outlook.