I have always been, and remain, an introverted homebody. When it was time for me to leave home to go to college, my parents and my best friend drove me to my new school and helped me move into the dorm. I didn’t have a car and didn’t know anyone. I remember the strange, suffocating feeling that washed over me after the people I loved most drove away.
I knew that my temptation would be to remain isolated rather than endure the awkwardness of meeting new people. I made myself sit alone in the cafeteria instead of taking food back to my room so that I would be forced into close proximity to others. It took some time to meet and befriend what became an amazing group of friends, including my future husband, but in the mean time, God brought others who invited me to sit with them or came over to sit with me during meal times. I was so grateful for this kindness.
Before long, I had a group of friends from church who I came to love as family. After that happened, on some of the many occasions when I would sit and eat with these dear friends in the cafeteria, I would silently pause and remember what it felt like to sit in the very same room and eat meal after meal alone. I wanted to remember and give thanks for the blessing of the friends that God had provided because I didn’t want to take them for granted, and the remembering made my friendships that much sweeter.
In Joshua chapter 3, God parted the Jordan River so that the Israelites could cross over on dry land to the Promised Land. In Joshua 4, God instructs Joshua to have delegates from each of the 12 tribes of Israel take stones from the middle of the river and set them up as a memorial. The stones were to serve as a reminder of what God had done, as well as a conversation piece for future generations so that when they asked about the stones, the parents could tell the story of crossing over the Jordan. They would also be physical proof to other nations of the mighty works of the one true God.
As always, God, in His great mercy, anticipated His children’s needs. He knew their tendency to forget and take for granted what He had done for them. Perhaps He was thinking of times of adversity to come during which the Israelites would need the encouragement of remembering what God had done before, giving them hope about what He would do in the future. Perhaps He knew how much sweeter the land of milk and honey would seem to future generations when they learned about God’s deliverance of their ancestors from slavery and wilderness wandering. In times of ordinary provision, we have the luxury of forgetting and not fully appreciating our complete and utter dependence upon God. When we are in the midst of adversity, we are perfectly poised to both confess our need for Him as well as to witness His miraculous provision, which is sometimes easily forgotten once life returns to a blessedly unremarkable semblance of “normal.”
This holy Saturday, as we look forward to celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we remember the His suffering and the miracle of the divine becoming flesh and taking the punishment for our sins that we might enjoy the awesome privilege of being called children of God. We remember His suffering not as those who witnessed it, but as those who have the privilege of knowing the outcome. Though Hebrews 4:16 says we may now “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help,” we remember that it was not always so. Our salvation is a free gift, but it did not come cheaply. In times of suffering, we can look back on memorials from the past and remember how God delivered us before, giving us the courage to wait expectantly for His miraculous provision yet again. In times of rest and security, our peace is made sweeter as we remember the mess we were in before He delivered us. May the miracles, the messes, the suffering, the blessings, and the times of peace in our lives all serve their purpose as we bear witness to His goodness and mercy.