Forgotten. In my mind, it’s a horrible word. Sure, there is that part of our human nature that infects us all. We all forget from time to time. We forget people’s names. We forget important appointments. We forget birthdays and anniversaries. We forget what we did. We forget what we said. We forget the promises we made. We all forget. All of us. No exceptions. It happens to even the best of us. But I can live with that. I understand that people aren’t perfect. They never have been and never will be. If anything, I’m more surprised when someone doesn’t forget. That’s what really amazes me.
My struggle comes when I feel like God has forgotten….
After all, He’s perfect. He’s all-powerful. He has no limits to what He can do. He’s all-knowing. There’s nothing He doesn’t know. So, if I’m going to be theologically honest, there is that very literal sense in which God cannot forget. He can choose NOT to remember. But even in those instances we have to be very careful with the original meaning and understanding of the Biblical languages. For God it’s never an issue of failure, deficiency, or inadequacy. He doesn’t forget. He chooses not to remember. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Ok, let me try to explain. For God, the idea of remembering cannot be separated from the idea of action. To remember in the Bible is more than just simply recalling information. It’s not a “light bulb” moment where some previously elusive information suddenly pops back to the forefront of the mind. To remember literally means to go into action on behalf of another. It’s a word that is closely tied to compassion, care, and concern. God remembers (or chooses not to remember) because of His love for His children.
That brings us now to Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 1:11, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son,…” I think a couple of things are happening right here.
- Hannah feels forgotten. Many of us have been there. You might be there right now. Whether it’s Joseph languishing in an Egyptian dungeon, Moses withering away on the backside of the desert, or David hiding out in caves for a decade many of God’s servants have “felt” forgotten. The trials, troubles, and tribulations of life have a way of distorting our perception. Circumstances and situations can quickly skew our confidence and trust. The result is we feel forgotten. In our minds God has misplaced us, set us aside and gone on about His business. His promises seem empty. His words seem hollow. And we feel abandoned. Hannah wondered that God cared about her situation at all. Perfectly human given the circumstances.
- Hannah expresses her desperation. Prayer thrives in an environment of honesty and vulnerability. Too many of us have grown up in church believing that prayer is something akin to a magical incantation. We think we have to say words in just the right way, that we have to say what God wants to hear even if it’s not what we feel or believe. Hannah didn’t pull any punches with God. I like that. Look at the word she uses… affliction. It’s a word that literally means “poverty.” In other words, Hannah tells God that her present pain has left her with nothing. She is broken. She is bankrupt, completely and entirely emptied out. She had nothing left in the tank emotionally or spiritually. Life had chewed her up and spit her out. Little wonder that she felt forgotten.
- Hannah maintains her faith in God. Say what?… I’m not sure where we developed this idea that faith is all about saying one thing and feeling another. I guess part of it is tangled up in the whole “positive confession” theology. It’s a dangerous game we play when we think that just because we “say” the right thing God is now somehow obligated to act on our behalf. We can’t and shouldn’t try to manipulate God. Hannah is hurting BUT she still turns to God. That’s faith. In her desperation and pain, she still holds fast to her trust in God’s power and ability. She knows that only He can change her situation. She doesn’t give up on God. If anything, she clings that much more desperately to Him. Yes, she might have felt forgotten. Yes, she was in desperate need. But still she believed that God was able to do far above and beyond anything she could ask or think.
And so, Hannah asks God to “remember” her. She reaches out to heaven and asks her heavenly Father to once again demonstrate His care and compassion, to act on her behalf. That, my friends, is a prayer worth praying in my book. Sometimes life will not make any sense at all. Life can be hard and life can be difficult. And at times we will feel forgotten. But in those times we need to hold fast to our Father. Stop hiding behind the ritual of prayer. It’s not a mantra. It’s a relationship, a shared intimacy between close family members. Share your hurts, pains, frustrations, and fears with your Father. But just don’t let those things make you forget. He is all-knowing. He sees and knows your need. He is all-powerful. There is nothing beyond His ability. And He is all-caring. He will never abandon or forsake you. He will never leave you. And in time, at just the right time, He is going to remember your need and take action.