The miracle (of misery) of memory

Published 3:32 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2018

By Roger Campbell


Memory triggers transport us back in time: an old song, a familiar voice on the phone, going home, driving by your hometown school, revisiting the church you attended as a child; sometimes even a word spoken by a stranger can activate our onboard computer, returning us to those halcyon days of yesteryear.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Psalmist declared we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and

our ability to remember may be one of the clearest evidences of the accuracy of his conclusion.  Memory provides an ever growing mental file of information.  It is also the fountain from which thanksgiving flows.

Each morning I quote the first five verses of Psalm 103, David’s great Psalm of thanksgiving, which reminds me to start the day grateful.  “Forget not all His benefits,” said David.  We all need this good advice, especially when trials tempt us to focus on our burdens instead of our blessings.

The miracle of memory enables us to relive special times of commitment.  Often in thought, I kneel near the creek that flows through the pastureland of the farm where I grew up and there lift my prayers to God.  Hearing a congregation sing “Where He Leads Me,” I may feel again the burning of hot tears that welled up in my eyes as I walked down a church aisle to publicly acknowledge my decision to “go with Him all the way.”

Others have had places to which they returned in person or memory to rehearse God’s blessings and refresh their faith.  Jacob returned to Bethel, a place where he had met God

in a special way and made promises to Him.  John Wesley once preached a powerful sermon from his father’s gravestone while an angry crowd bloodied his face with flying objects.

The memory of his minister father so motivated Wesley that he said he just wiped away the blood and kept on preaching; later he became known as the man who, along with his brother, Charles, brought spiritual renewal to England, saved his country from a violent revolution and gave birth to the Methodist Church.

A church once known for its good work, faithful service to God and patience during tough times, fell into decline.  Services became mechanical and love was lacking.  During this discouraging period, the church was told to remember how good things had been in the past, to change directions and get back to basics.  Memory was to be the means of bringing this dying church to life; the congregation must return to their former love for God and people (Revelation 2:4-5): good advice for many churches today.

While memory moves many to productive faith-filled living, it drives others to despair.  As we enter what has been called, “the most wonderful time of the year,” it is important to remember that for many among us, Christmas memories are more haunting than happy.  What can we do about memories that hamper our holiday joy?

I suggest another visit to my morning Psalm, focusing on its good news – the great joy of God’s forgiveness and sovereignty: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us…His Kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:12-19).”

No cosmic computer holds any record against those who’ve responded to the offer of forgiveness through God’s amazing grace.


Don’t forget it!

Roger Campbell was an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years.  Contact us at