Living and growing: Ever wonder if God has forgotten you?

Posted: Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Have you ever wondered if God has forgotten you?

You are not alone.

In 730 B.C., the Israelites were wondering the same thing. After all, they were supposed to be God's chosen people, but first the Assyrians and now the Babylonians had come and sacked their wealth, carried off their children, and destroyed the holy temple in Jerusalem. God must have forgotten them. In their self-pity and fear they said, "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." (Isaiah 49:14, RSV)

But God answers them, and shows them that it is not he who has forgotten, but they who have forgotten his character and his love. He compares his love for his people to that of one of the most excellent of human loves and puts this question to the Israelites, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?" (Isaiah 49:15a, RSV)

God knew in offering this comparison, what the Israelites knew full well, and what we know: although this love between mother and child ought to be one of the strongest bonds of faithfulness among human beings, it all too frequently is not. Mothers have been known to forget their children, to consume alcohol while they are pregnant with them, to abandon them in the streets, to beat them and to belittle them. The Lord goes on to say in a verse from Isaiah, "Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you."

God is not the one who forgets. "Behold," he says in verse 16, "I have graven you on the palms of my hands." God powerfully communicates to his people that it is impossible for him to forget them. Each and every one of them were carved into the palms of his hands, a permanent and unforgettable sign of the love and compassion he has for his people, a love and compassion that far surpasses even the best of human loves, a love and compassion that infinitely outweighs the constant, stubborn disobedience of his sinful children.

It is the Israelites who have forgotten. They have forgotten the unfailing love of their Lord, and so they lose themselves in their self-pity and despair. They have forgotten that the Lord is a God whom they can trust, who keeps his promises even when they do not keep theirs. They have forgotten that the mercies of the Lord never end.

In the season of Lent, that spans the forty days, minus Sundays, from Ash Wednesday to Resurrection Sunday, the Church sets aside time to remember. We remember that we are dust, mortal and temporary. We remember that we have sinned "in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and what we have left undone." In particular, we remember the cross, the punishment for sin that Jesus Christ took for us, standing in our place and paying the full price. John's gospel tells us that in his last words to his disciples Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (15:13, RSV) God does not forget. His love and compassion surpass and conquer all the hate and evil this world could throw at him.

Have you ever wondered if God has forgotten you?

If so, then you may be the one who has forgotten.

Take this time leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to remember. Take this time to survey the wondrous cross and to hear the Word of the Lord that spans the centuries, unchanging and true, saying, "I will not forget you." Look to the cross and hear him say, "Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hand."

• The Rev. Tracee D Hackel is associate pastor of Christian Education and Discipleship at Chapel by the Lake Community Presbyterian Church.

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