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Longing for a Manasseh Moment?

Memory is a good thing. We need it. When we lose short-term memory, our life goes into a tailspin. No one understands this better than caretakers for dementia and Alzheimer's patients.

Memories can also torment and tempt us. One Vietnam veteran said the smell of diesel fuel sends his mind back to the war. Veterans of other wars say that certain sounds and sights can resurrect harrowing experiences of battle. For thousands of years soldiers have struggled with flashbacks long after the fighting ended.

Children who have been abused remember the abuse and their abusers for the rest of their life. Even when they have a secure, happy, and normal life, childhood memories can haunt them. Victims of physical, sexual and verbal abuse have to fight feelings of low self-esteem, anger, and fear. Like a dog biting at their heels, these emotions continue to creep up on them.

When we lose a spouse, a child, or other loved ones, our minds go back and forth from the past to the present. Almost anything can trigger deep feelings of emptiness and grief—a song, a holiday or a restaurant. Years after the death of a family member, a painful memory can come out of nowhere and bring us to our knees.

All of us have things in the past that still bother us. The challenge is to learn from the past without living in it.

I have often wondered how some people in the Bible went on with their lives. Adam lived over 800 years after his son Abel was murdered by his own brother. Job lived 140 years after he lost his ten children. They could not escape the past, but they learned to live in the present. Surely this took faith. That is the answer. There are things we can do to lessen the pain, but at the end of the day we must submit to God and trust in Him.

“Time is a great healer.” There is truth in this saying. But time does not erase the past. Feelings fade with time, but they can erupt like a volcano when you least expect. In the meantime we must renew our confidence in the God who gave His only begotten Son to be murdered for a sinful world.

Will this struggle ever end? Will we remember the past after we die? The rich man remembered (Luke 16:25). Whatever we remember about the past in heaven, it will not cause us pain or grief. I cannot explain this. I do not understand how we can be in a state where we will feel no anguish of soul any more than I can fathom what it will be like to never feel pain in the body again. But as surely as the Lord lives and reigns in heaven, the faithful one day will never again have to struggle with the intense fear, anger and sorrow that cripple our souls in this life.

In the middle of the Great Depression, Frank Crane wrote, “The past is what we make of it. It is the temper of the present that qualifies it. It depends upon how you now consider it whether it brings you despair or discouragement. Do not let the past unman you, benumb you with remorse, weaken you with self contempt” (Gospel Advocate, December 3, 1931). That is the outlook we should have today.

If anyone experienced undeserved hardship, Joseph did—hatred and betrayal from his brothers, separation from his father, slander and imprisonment in Egypt. Thirteen years after the story begins in Genesis 37, Joseph married and had two sons. He named one of his sons Manasseh which means to make forgetful. Joseph explained, "For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house” (Gen. 41:51). Let us trust in the all-wise God to help us remember the past when it can help us grow and ignore it when it hinders us.


West End church of Christ bulletin article for Jun 25, 2023.


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