As humans, we tend to remember what we need to forget and forget what we need to remember. God, on the other hand, forgets what He promises to forget and remembers what He promises to remember. God said, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more,” (Hebrews 10:17 NIV).
Paul tells us one of the secrets to his success as a Christian and in life. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:13, 14).
In the Bible, God tells us that He “forgets” our sins and remembers them no more. But how does an omniscient, all-knowing God forget? Let’s look at the antonym to get a better understanding.
There are many events in the Bible that begin with the words God remembered: God “remembered Noah,” (Genesis 8:1), God “remembered Abraham,” (Genesis 19:29), God “remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22), “God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob,” (Exodus 2:24). In each incident, God’s remembering meant that He was about to do something – God was about to act.
Therefore, if God’s remembering means He is about to act, then God forgetting means that He is not going to act. “For I will forgive their wickedness,” He says, “and will remember their sins no more,” (Jeremiah 31:34). He forgets our sins – He is not going to act upon them. Likewise, while we cannot physically forget the details of the wounds of our pasts, we can choose not to act on them. We can choose to forgive the person who has hurt us and not allow the memory of the offense control our lives. In that sense, we can forgive and forget.
When Paul talks about forgetting he does not mean that he will or even can wipe an incident from his memory. “Forgetting did not mean obliterating the memory of his past, but was a conscious refusal to let it absorb his attention and impede his progress,” (Zondervan NIV Commentary, Vol. 1). Paul refused to allow anything from his past control his present. He could tell about it, but without pain, malice, or a hint of revenge.
But it’s too hard, you might say. Friend, God will never tell us to do something that He will not give us the power to do. He has instructed us to forgive…so He will give us the power to do so. He has instructed us to leave the past behind…so He will give us the power to do so. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). “All things” means all things that God has called us to do.
Isaiah wrote, “When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field?” (Isaiah 28:24).
I think for many of us, we have been plowing and re-plowing the ground far too long. We’ve been telling and re-telling what was done and how it was done…going over the same ground and stirring up the dirt into a giant dust bowl. But there comes a point when it is time to stop plowing up the ground and start planting seeds – until then, we will never see a harvest.
Today, ask God if there is someone you need to forgive, if there is something you need to “forget,” if there is some ground you need to cease plowing. Then give the memory to God and ask Him to plant good seeds for an incredible harvest!
Today’s post was adapted from Sharon’s book, Your Scars are Beautiful to God: Find Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past. Sign up for Sharon’s blog for more encouragement and inspiration.