How to Stay Strong in Hard Times
The Importance of Remembering
A Time of Difficulty
As Christians, we are promised that this life will produce suffering. While we are not all allotted the same amount or kind of suffering, we see in Matthew 5:45 that the sun shines and the rain falls on all people, good or evil; we will all face difficult seasons. These pains could be caused by rejection from or loss of loved ones, sickness, financial hardship, failure, or feeling God is withholding a blessing or healing you deserve. When these times of difficulty strike, we are not called to sit and atrophy in our spiritual, emotional, or relational life. We are called to be strong.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13, NIV
How do we stay strong?
So, how do we rely on the Lord in seasons of plenty and want? We are called to remember.
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1: 6-8 (emphasis added)
God had taught the Israelites the most important lesson: be always meditating on His laws. The Israelites must constantly remind themselves of God’s commands to keep from falling into snares. Much like us, the Israelites were a wayward people—prone to worshipping idols, forgetting God’s commands, not completing the work He called them to do. God warned the Israelites that in times of plenty, the people would forget all He had done for them.
Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
His people did not listen. Instead of constantly meditating on all the Lord had given them, the people became proud. They did not keep God’s law in front of them, and they forgot.
“But I have been the Lord your God ever since you came out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me. I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.
We even see how Satan used the evil of forgetting to lead Eve into sin. ““Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
“Did God really say…?”
This concept brings to mind a scene from C. S. Lewis’ “The Silver Chair”. After the Green Witch has caught the protagonists in her underworld, she uses a magical incense and enchanted instrument to distract and subdue them, causing them to forget Narnia and the “Overworld”.
“Jill couldn’t remember the names of the things in our world…for now, the magic was in its full strength; and of course, the more enchanted you get, the more you feel that you are not enchanted at all. She found herself saying (and at the moment it was a relief to say):
‘No. I suppose [Narnia] must be all a dream’….
’There never was such a world’, said the Witch.
‘No,’ said Jill… ‘never was such a world.’
‘There never was any world but mine,’ said the Witch.”
C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair (New York: HarperCollins Pub., 1994), 175-176
The Green Witch’s great subduing strength came from her ability to make others forget the truth. In the modern day, we see this same tactic weaponized to control the masses through propaganda. By surrounding a society with lies and distraction, (film, news, education) and by stripping away all tools of remembrance (destroying/outlawing historic records, art, monuments), a community may be subverted into submitting to lies instead of standing for truth.
How do we remember?
In difficult times, how do we practice the art of remembering in our lives? How can we apply this Biblical principle in small but impactful ways within our homes? To answer this question, we will look to Scripture and traditions.
Wall Art and Memorials
In the religious world, art has served as a tool of remembrance for centuries. Churches depicted the stories of Christ’s life in stained glass, painted in ceilings of ornate chapels, and carved into stone. God Himself commanded the use of memorials (structures) as ways to remember God’s goodness.
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
In cultivating a faith that will withstand difficult seasons, families should rely on art. Our family now collects art; paintings and prints, small reproductions of famous statues, and photos, to remember what God has done for us. Some of these paintings capture seasons that God cared for us or characteristic of God that we want to remember. Other pieces of art depict important lessons from books we’ve read or point us toward a goal we have. Modern-day home decorations like The Joshua Jar allow our family to couple our prayer life with physical reminders of God’s faithfulness. By covering your walls with art that communicates what you believe and what you value, you also remind your children and all who enter your home of God’s truths.
When the people of Israel wanted to celebrate what God had done for them, they sang! We see in Exodus 15, the song of Moses and Miriam, how music was both a tool of celebration and a teacher of truth. This first song of the Bible tells of all God’s mighty work, bringing His people out of bondage, destroying Pharaoh’s army, and reminds us of who God is: “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11). David and Solomon used Psalms (songs) to praise God, to tell of His works and His goodness, and to remember what God had done for His people.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Psalm 77: 11-12
Our family relies heavily on music to remember and reinforce valuable information. Consider singing hymns to your children that enforce orthodox Christian principles. Participate in Classical education programs like Classical Conversations that intertwine memorization with song. Orient your family around learning Bible verses through music. We attend a popular Bible verse memory program, AWANA, that utilizes songs to help children (and their parents!) learn scripture throughout the year. Every week, our children memorize new songs and recite each verse to leadership.
It is not a coincidence that when a civilization desires to subjugate a population, they often destroy the victim’s history. Consider Ingsoc’s party slogan in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
Why is history so important? It binds us to what has been and prepares us for what will be. God commanded the Israelites in Deuteronomy:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
The people should have relied on God, trusting that as He clothed and fed them before, He could be trusted to care for them in the future. In Western African culture, a Griot served the village as storyteller and oral history keeper. This community figure brings a unified culture and history to the people, keeping important stories and events ever at the forefront of their minds, reminding them of their shared heritage.
In a similar way, our family has relied on journals to record our personal histories and our family history. During our early days of marriage and seminary, we took time to record the ways God had cared for us, the incredible moments of provision and preservation that became part of our family history. We would write our prayers to God and look back months and years after to record how God had answered these prayers in completely unexpected ways. In this manner, we have created a collection of family stories/history. We look at these records and remember God’s intimate care for us, and we are reminded that God will care for us in whatever suffering he asks us to bear.
I’m here to admit something: I used to be a Scrooge. I saw Christmas as a time of stress and chaos, a commercialized mess. I had become a more serious Christian, but I wasn’t sold out on the 2 months of “Santa Claus” jingles. After all, I *believed* Jesus was born of a virgin, why did I need to do more than read my Bible to acknowledge this historic event?
“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.
It was only upon becoming a mother that holidays made sense to me. In observing religious ceremonies and holidays, we enforce in our children a spiritual rhythm that demands remembrance. We have, therefore, worked to make our Christian holidays/seasons (Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Holy Week, Easter) pivotal to our Christian worship. This involves ordering our days around remembrance of God. Do we still enjoy some Santa movies? Sure. Do we still exchange gifts? Yes! But we prioritize daily/weekly traditions that center each holiday on Christ. Much like Old Testament feasts and celebrations, we use this time to remember God’s goodness, to reflect on His provision, and to establish His truths in future generations.
As we walk through seasons of joy and sorrow, may we remember the Lord’s faithfulness through art, song, story, and celebration. And may this remembrance strengthen us to always stand boldly for truth.
Some of my favorite tools:
New City Catechism App; FREE! (includes wonderful kid-friendly songs to reinforce memorization)
Resources used for this post: