Mark Twain said:
“A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.”
And perhaps a bit of that is true. For if we truly ‘remember’, we will remember many failings, many sins, many troubles from the past. If we have a clear conscience, or if we have never been troubled by events and words from the past, we do have a ‘bad memory’.
Some have horrible memories, tales of great hurts, scars on the body, or on the soul, remind them of the horrible events of the past. Some are troubled via nightmares, some are troubled with nervousness, often weeping, horrible scars on the soul tender to any mention of certain things, and avoidance of some people, places, or things so as to avoid the horrible remembering of great hurts.
There are troubling physical symptoms, regurgitation of past events already chewed over many times before, caused by disgraceful situations in the past, shameful secrets, and hurtful people. Sometimes the mind is enormously intensified to alertness of the formerly unconscious pain. The resulting inferiority feeling, the intense anger at even the innocent, come due to the memories.
JOB HAD HORRIBLE MEMORIES.
Job remembered all that he had, and had lost. His children, property, wealth, health, and the sympathy of wife and friends were gone, lost in one day.
Job 21:6 (KJV)
Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.
The troubles of Job all came due to the attack from the devil. The faith of Job was strong, and he learned to keep his eyes on the Lord. He came through the troubles, victorious. Yet, it did take two years to come through the distress.
JOSEPH, HAD MANY BAD MEMORIES
Joseph was mistreated by his brothers, robbed of his coat of many colors, sold into slavery, imprisoned but innocent, and yet, all those events led to him being second in command of Egypt, when he needed to be there, to save his own family, the beginnings of the nation of Israel from starvation and from death.
Joseph was hated by his brothers, and this family trouble hurt him, as it would hurt any of us.
Genesis 37:8 (KJV)
And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
Joseph was envied by his brothers. The stress of jealousy, of resulting ill will from the brothers toward him was concerning to him, and the memory of those events remained with him for years.
Genesis 37:11 (KJV)
11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
Memories of being conspired against could have plagued him for decades.
Genesis 37:18 (KJV)
18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
His memory of being robbed, mistreated, and betrayed were constant memories that harassed his mind.
Genesis 37:23-24 (KJV)
23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
Yet, due to those things, that had been, not caused, but allowed by God, in the end brought Joseph to the place and position of being able that God could use him to be a blessing.
Genesis 50:19-21 (KJV)
19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.
REMEMBERING AND COMPLAINING WILL OVERWHELM OUR SPIRIT
Psalm 77:3 (KJV)
3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
Today, if we ‘complain’ over bitter memories, will still find our ‘spirit’ to be ‘overwhelmed.’ There are many today who are overwhelmed in memories. The memories were troubling, and it is easy to complain. Yet, it does have far reaching effect.
WE SHARE MANY MEMORIES WITH THE LORD, HE WAS HATED, HE WAS PERSECUTED AND MISTREATED, AND SO WILL WE BE.
John 15:18-20 (KJV)
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.
The memories of these events upon Jesus were dealt with, not by complaining, but by Him uttering words of ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ That kind of facing of the bitter memories of rejection and of hatred, made Jesus able to be strong and capable of handling life’s sorrows.
Someone once said that to forgive sets a prisoner free, and that prisoner is ourselves. We are made a prisoner of un-forgiveness for those who have mistreated us. Jesus faced the horrible memories and forgave, put those events behind Him, and thereby could be a Savior.
FORGETTING THINGS BEHIND
Forgetting does not erase our bad memories. In fact, forgetting is not truly possible. At best, we must create a new way to remember. We fill our life with hope in Jesus, replacing disappointment of self and of mankind.
Paul invited us to ‘forget’ things behind. He was speaking of ‘running a race’ and speaking therefore of not looking back at the part of the race already run, but to look ahead at the remaining track yet to run, its finish line. We cannot wipe from our memory the events of the past. There are constant reminders of life, there are demonic nightmares to remind us and even twist the events of the past to greater torment than they actually were.
Paul admitted he was ‘not perfect’, and had not ‘apprehended’ success and peace of self, but his peace, joy and success is due only to the Lord. Yet, he says he forgets things behind, the past events, stumblings, and troubles of the race behind him. He reaches therefore out to the finish line yet ahead.
Philippians 3:12-14 (KJV)
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
How can we ‘forget’ though? It is impossible to wash those bad events totally from our minds. If we push them into the subconscious, they may suddenly return to the conscious mind.
The word used by Paul for ‘forgetting’, is the Greek word ‘epilanthanomai, meaning ‘to lose out of mind’; by implication ‘to neglect to think about,’ and ‘to choose not to remember.’ We cannot push them totally from our memory, but we can choose not to think about them, not to dwell on their implications and pain.
God forgets our repented sins. He is still ‘all knowing’ and still has omniscience, meaning, if asked, He could remember them. Yet, what He has promised to do is to not dwell on our sins of the past, those repented of. He chooses to see us clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. The Lord has recorded the sins of David. His murder of Bathsheba’s husband, his adultery with her were remembered by God to have the sin written in the Bible even long after God had forgiven and chosen to ‘forget’ them, shows that the meaning of that word means that He chooses not to hold the sins against us.
When we forget the things behind, surely, if asked, you could list them in order of pain. Yet, you forget, choosing not to dwell on that former pain and sorrow of those memories. Thank God, He did that for our repented sins, and Paul tells us to do similarly to those troubles of our past.
Paul was telling us that he forgot the ground he had covered in the race behind him. The imprisonments, the shipwreck, the stoning, the rejection by Christian brothers, and instead, looked toward the finish line.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (KJV)
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Paul could not, and neither can we afford to waste time over the past. We need to reach forth to that which is before us in the race. We should strain every nerve and muscle and use every ounce of strength to win this race. Our future depends on it. Our present joy and peace also depends on it. We are running for our lives. We must press toward the mark, that is, the white line on which all runners must keep their eyes fixed, lest we be disqualified for the prize.