By: Ian Wooldridge

For those of you who know me well, you know that the book of Psalms — if I had to pick a “favorite” book from the library of Scripture — would be my favorite book.

I’ve always been captivated and mesmerized by the scope of the book, and have always felt this deep invitation into the depth of God’s heart as I meditate on and read the words in the Psalms.

David, and the other authors, seem to paint a picture of relational intimacy with the living God that goes far beyond head knowledge. They write from deep, experiential interaction with the presence of God — and sometimes, even, the lack thereof; as in, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 1

I love the honesty, and the raw, uncensored vigor that David and some of the other authors take straight to God with many of these prayers and songs — their humanness —as they lament and express their hearts in the midst of their trial or hardship.

The Psalms have seen me through a fair share of really hard seasons, too.

Something particular, though, has always resonated with me as I’ve read the book of Psalms. Several of the Psalms seem to display a pattern, or a structure, that looks something like this:

Beginning tends to deal with:

  • Pain
  • Heartache
  • Confusion
  • Distress
  • General sentiments, like Why, Lord?! and Where are You, God? or How much longer?

Ending tends to — whether circumstances have changed or not — concentrate on remembering:

  • How God’s love has shown up before
  • How God’s faithfulness has shown up before
  • How God’s power has moved before
  • How God’s goodness has never changed
  • God is still trustworthy, and worthy of praise
  • The great things God has done, and how He has moved in the past

I love these particular Psalms that give us this pattern, and how the breakthrough comes by going back; the breakthrough comes by remembering.

AJ Sherrill writes:

There is something mysterious about the past that we are meant to import into the present. Remembering God’s activity in past activity somehow opens us to receive God’s activity on the present. It is accessed through faith. Faith is built through hearing stories of God’s faithfulness, remembering the wonders done in ages gone by, and seeking a fresh outpouring based on how God has manifested in times past… remembering means bringing the past forward into the present… the Spirit of God takes what happened in the past and brings it powerfully forward to meet us in the present. 2

When we look at Psalm 77, for example, we see the writer, Asaph, begin with “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me… and I would not be comforted.” 3

Encouraging, right?

Asaph continues with, “Has God forgotten to be merciful?” 4

But then, in the following verses, a resounding resurgence of heart begins to swell:

“Then I thought,” writes Asaph, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand… I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles long ago… Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” 5

Asaph remembered God’s activity in the past, and it unlocked a kind of assurance about God’s activity in the present, and how He will continue to do what He’s always done in the future. When we remember who God is — and remember how He has acted from His character before — we reorient ourselves with reality:

The Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing.6

I’ve come to learn from my own experience that remembering how God has moved in my life in the past gives me joy in the present, and peace about the future.

The Practice: Remember

When we remember, a couple things can happen for us:

1. We’re given joy in the present

Psalm 126:3 says it like this:

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 7

Notice that it doesn’t say “The Lord is doing great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” No, it says that the Lord “has done great things,” and thus, “we are filled with joy.”

The joy comes by remembering who He has shown Himself to be in the past, and letting that remind us of who He is and what He’s like now.

When we reflect upon His character by remembering the great things He’s done for us in the past, we’re not just reflecting on something of old — we’re reflecting on what His character is like now.

Or, again, as AJ Sherrill puts it:

The God who revealed is the God who reveals; the God who created is the God who creates; the God who acted is the God who acts. Past meets present. 8

So, how has God moved in your life? How has He shown His goodness, power, or love in your personal history? In your story?

He’s still authoring your story, and His character towards you is unchanging.

2. We’re given peace about the future

We find David in Psalm 31 at a not so good place:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. 9

Then, several verses later, after some more lamenting, comes the breakthrough moment:

But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. 10

Why is David trusting God? How is he able to be at peace with his future?

By remembering what God is like. The psalm continues:

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. 11

David is simply recalling how God moves, because He knows how God has moved:

Praise the Lord, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.He kept me safe when my city was under attack. 12

When we remember how God has moved in our own, personal stories, we can have peace about the future because we know that as He’s done before, He will do again — that no matter what we may encounter, we can be confident that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” as Paul writes in Romans 8. 13

Greg Pinkner once simply and aptly said:

“God is committed to your soul.”

We can be confident that no matter what we may encounter — even a pandemic — that God, out of His commitment to our souls, will work it all for our good, out of His great love for us. Nothing we could ever encounter in life is outside of the realm of God’s redeeming power, love, and grace.

So, with David, we can confidently say,

I am trusting you, O Lord…
My future is in your hands.

So, what could it look like to practice remembering?

In 1 Samuel 7, we’re told a story about how God delivered Samuel and the Israelites from the hand of the Philistines when “the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.” 14

So, God delivered Samuel and his army from the hand of the Philistines when they tried to engage the Israelites in battle — God gave them victory.

What happens next?

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up… He named it Ebenezer saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 15

Ebenezer is a term that means “stone of help.”

So, don’t think Scrooge — think help.

I think a really cool opportunity for you could be to have a kind of Ebenezer set up in your life — a “stone of help.” Most recently, for me, in my study, I’ve kept a small piece of paper on my desk where I’ve simply written down the things God has done in my own personal history — times when He’s delivered me, and brought me through. Every time I see these things, I’m simply reminded of His character, and what He’s like; and that He still moves in the same way now. This is especially helpful in harder seasons.

So, as we close, here’s your invitation: create an Ebenezer, or a “stone of help”, and put it somewhere where you can see it everyday. Again, for me, it was simply a piece of paper, with the things God did written down. Whatever it looks like for you, you’re invited to try it out. Every time you see it, you’ll be reminded of God’s character, and what He’s like.

Similarly, in Joshua 4, Joshua and his comrades set up “memorial stones” to commemorate God parting the Jordan River so they could cross over safely to the other side. Joshua then declared to all of the Israelites:

In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. 16

Consider having your own, personal, memorial “stone of help” to be reminded of how God has led you through the waters on dry ground, too — and that He’ll do it again.


  1. Psalm 10:1, 2b, NIV.
  2. AJ Sherrill, Expansive: Stretching Beyond Superficial Christianity (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017).
  3. Verse 1, NIV.
  4. Verse 9, NIV.
  5. Verses 10-11, 13-14, NIV, emphasis mine.
  6. Psalm 23:1, par.
  7. This is from the NIV.
  8. Sherrill, Expansive.
  9. Verse 9, NLT.
  10. Verses 14 and 15a, NLT.
  11. Verses 20 and 21, NLT.
  12. Verse 21, NLT.
  13. Verse 28, NIV, emphasis mine.
  14. Verse 10b, NIV.
  15. Verse 12, NIV.
  16. Joshua 4:21-23a, NIV.

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