Spiritual Amnesia

Has it ever seemed like things are going really well in your relationship with God one day, and then almost the next day you’re spiritually in the dumps? Maybe your quiet times are going great and the Bible is really challenging you and speaking to you, and then the next thing you know it’s hard to even focus on what you’re reading. If you’ve been a Christian for longer than a year, this has likely happened to you. Like any relationship, the Christian life is full of ups and downs.

I was actually thinking about this earlier today. I decided to dub it “spiritual amnesia.” Spiritual amnesia is where, for whatever reason, you just forget who you are and, more importantly, whose you are. Why is it so easy for us to forget that we are redeemed people? We are holy and righteous. First Peter 2:9 tells us that we are the people of God and we are to worship Him. But sometimes we forget…

This has happened for thousands of years to many heroes of the faith. For example, Abraham is considered the father of faith (Gal 3:7) but he suffered from spiritual amnesia. In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abram a great nation. Abram then starts his journey of faith with God, he’s protected from Pharaoh (Gen 12:17), he rescues his brother, Lot (Gen 14:16), but pretty soon Abram doubts God. In Gen 15:2-3, the father of faith wavers in his faith. Sounds like Abram had a case of spiritual amnesia.

Another example is found in 1 Kings 18. In 1 Kings 18:38-39, Elijah witnesses God defeat Baal by sending fire to consume wood. Then God ends a multi-year drought (1 Kings 18:45) and then empowers Elijah to outrun a chariot (1 Kings 18:46). Then in Ch 19, THE VERY NEXT CHAPTER, Elijah hears that Jezebel wants to kill him, so he goes into despair and asks God to kill him (1 Kings 19:3-4). After going toe-to-toe with all the Baal prophets and seeing God win, Elijah is then afraid of one person. He was certainly suffering from spiritual amnesia.

Another example comes from John. In the John 6:10-11, Jesus feeds five thousand people. Later that night he walks across the sea to Capernaum (Jn 6:19). The crowd follows him and then in Jn 6:30-31 they ask him for a sign saying, “Our fathers ate manna from Heaven.” They seem to have forgotten that just yesterday Jesus had fed five thousand people bread… from Heaven! This is also a clear case of spiritual amnesia!

There are plenty of other examples of this behavior. In the book of judges, it happens repeatedly (Judges 2:19)! It seems like a common pattern for people in the Bible to forget about God. Sadly, I see this pattern in my own life too… So how do we “fix” it? Is there a cure?

I don’t know.

I think the only thing we can do is continually seek the face of God. The more time we spend with God, the more we will remember. Often I feel like the person described in James 1:24 who just can’t seem to remember who he is. As soon as I stop reading my Bible I forget that I’m a son of God. I forget that I have the Holy Spirit inside of me. I forget that I’ve been given everything I need to live a life that will please and glorify God. I forget.

But James 1:25 tells us we must look intently. There must be a purposeful, consistent, persistent gazing. We must have a pursuit of God. Too often, Christianity is portrayed as a once time event. Like turning 18. Once you turn 18, you’ll always be 18 without ever having to try or do anything else. Becoming a Christian is a lot more different. Becoming a Christian is about beginning a lifelong relationship. Being a Christian is a lot like being in love. We must pursue God, just like he pursued us. Being a Christian means responding to what God has already done.

Perhaps if we focus on what God has done we won’t be so quick to develop spiritual amnesia.

Never enough.

This is part eleven of a multi-entry blog series titled “Lessons I Learned in the Desert.”

I think this will be the last entry under the “Lessons I Learned in the Desert” series. One of the best aspects of my deployment was that I learned so much! It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about God, the Bible, how to love people, and I learned a lot about myself. My deployment was a constant learning experience and taught me lessons I will carry with me through life.

But it doesn’t just stop there, I’ve realized that I will never stop learning. I am, among other things, a student and I always will be. We can never learn enough from God and we can never know God too closely. Late in his life, Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians. Paul is a super-star of the faith; he wrote 13 books of the New Testament and brought Christianity to the non-Jewish world! If anyone knew God you would think it was Paul, but in Phil 3:10, he says very simply that he wants to know Christ.

Even after everything Paul had done, he still desired to know Christ more and more. Our attitude must be the same as that of Paul. We must always pursue the relationship that we are free to have with God. In fact, Galatians 4:6 tells us that the Holy Spirit inside of us cries out to God like we would our dad. We must also have the humility to admit that we don’t know everything; we must remember that there is plenty of room for God to teach us and surprise us. I pray that I will always desire to have a deeper, stronger relationship with God… by the Holy Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. Amen.