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Column: Stones of Remembrance

Photo: Lindsay Shaleen

Thunk. The familiar jolt of hitting rock bottom rattled my bones yet again. Didn’t we hit rock bottom just last week, too? I thought. My sister struggled with unexplained and debilitating health issues as well as depression, and I couldn’t count the times I had watched her come to the end of her rope. God, how will you bring us out of this one?

Each time God pulled my sister out of the pit of hopelessness seemed like a miracle. Yet surely God was getting tired of me begging for His mercy. When would He say “enough,” and abandon us to the bottom? A heretical thought, I know. I knew enough Scripture to believe that I served an omnipotent and faithful God, but my faith struggled to agree with my theology.

As I sat on my bed, once again crying out to God for mercy on my sister, I read Isaiah 46, a chapter that contrasts the pagan gods Bel and Nebo with Yahweh, the One true God. The pagan gods, whom human goldsmiths created, are burdensome statues that beasts and humans must carry. They depend on humans to set them in their place, and they cannot answer or save their worshippers when they cry out to them. Enemies capture Bel and Nebo in war, and they cannot deliver themselves.

By contrast, Yahweh, the uncreated Creator, declares that “even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Is. 46:4). A few verses later God admonishes us to “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Is. 46:9-10, emphasis added).

Remember. In Deuteronomy, God tells His people over and over again to remember His great works that He had done in bringing them out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Remembering His faithfulness in the past would spur them to trust Him with future struggles.

Joshua 3 and 4 record that as the Israelites marched to claim the Promised Land, they encountered an obstacle: the flooded Jordan river. They must have felt despair threaten to flood their hearts as they looked at that rushing water. They had waited for so long to enter the land, yet how could they cross now?

Then God did a miracle and parted the waters of the river for them so that they passed through on dry land, just as they had 40 years earlier at the Red Sea when they fled from the Egyptians. As they passed through, God gave the people a strange command: arrange 12 stones from the middle of the river in a pile at their next campsite. Why? As a memorial of what their faithful God had done when He brought them across.

As I felt the despair of hitting rock bottom with my sister yet again, I thought back to all of the other times when we had hit the bottom before and how each time God had pulled us out. And while I didn’t know how He would do it, I knew I could trust my God to rescue my sister yet again, as He always had before.

As college students, we have many concerns. How will we pay for college? How will we make it through this week, let alone the rest of the semester? Will we succeed in life after college? Maybe we find ourselves at the end of our rope more times than we want. As we consider these and countless other concerns, let us remember how God has provided for us and shown us His faithfulness in the past, and then trust Him to take care of our present and future needs. Let us have a faith like Abraham who “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21).