Unfortunately, both of my boys can tell stories of being forgotten by their mom.
Of course, I didn’t forget that I had children. I just didn’t realize what time it was. Engrossed in my work, I let the school pick-up time slide by on the clock.
Sadly, it happened more than once to both of them. You would think that the terrible guilt I felt each time would have taught me to use an alarm. (I do now—or I did until all this social distancing started.)
Then the call would come. “Mom, where are you? Are you almost here? Did you forget me?”
I’d look at the time and realize that they were probably the last child waiting for someone to get them. They’d been forgotten. That’s how it looked to the poor teacher who had to stay with them until I arrived. And despite all my reassurances that I didn’t forget them—just the time—they felt forgotten.
I’m so thankful that God never forgets us.
But sometimes we feel forgotten.
When we are afraid or dealing with pain, loss, or circumstances we can’t make sense of, we are tempted to wonder: Has God forgotten me? Am I left to deal with life on my own?
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
~Isaiah 43:1-3a (ESV)
Sometimes I wonder if God allows those circumstances—the turbulent waters and the fire—so that we will come to understand that He is always with us. In the good times, we are apt to forget Him. We go along in life, perhaps saying prayers of thanks at dinner time, but not really considering the magnitude of what God provides on a daily basis—much less for our eternity. We take the credit for our good fortune.
In the worst times, we become acutely aware of our need for God’s provision. It is in those times that we cry out to God for help. We reach for Him in the darkness. We beg Him to show up in a way that allows us to see Him at work—to see that He cares and hasn’t forgotten us.
When we seek Him, we find Him right where He has always been—waiting for us.
And unlike my own timing, God’s timing is always perfect. He makes His presence known at just the right time so that we can’t miss Him.
Challenges, threats, sadness, and fear have been a consistent part of the human experience throughout time. From famine and swords to disease, disaster, divorce, and death, pain and loss are part life. But God does not abandon us. He does not forget us. He is with us. Always.
The Israelites knew the story of the escape from Egypt. They had grown up hearing how God had redeemed His people and had brought them through the waters. And as the Jews of Jesus’s time read this passage in Isaiah, no doubt the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came to mind. God showed up IN the fire. He didn’t stop the fire; He protected them with a holy presence in the midst of danger.
He promises to do the same for us.
Jesus said in John 10 that nothing can make Him forget those who belong to Him:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
We are His. He calls us by name. Our names are engraved on His hands; He can’t forget us.
When we rush to believe that our undesirable circumstances mean God has forgotten us, He makes Himself known by standing in the fire with us. When we are lost, He shows us the Way. When we don’t understand our loss or pain, He reminds us with words of comfort: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”
You are not forgotten.
How has God made His presence known to you?