Thursday, January 5, 2017

When Good Times Are Forgotten

Have you ever been in a valley so long and so dark that you eventually forgot all the good in your life?  You didn't mean for it to happen.  In fact, you didn't even realize it was happening until one day you examined your life and said, "This is my life.  This is how it's always been, and I guess this is how it will always be."  The happy times aren't even a memory.  The blessings can't be remembered.  It seems like the length and severity of the valley have cast a shadow over the good times that once were.  In a sense, you find yourself in a famine. . . not of food, but of hope.

Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous. - Genesis 41:29-31

The above passage takes place during Joseph's captivity in Egypt.  Temporarily free of his prison bonds, the young foreigner interprets Pharoah's dreams, informing the ruler that the kingdom would experience seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.  He goes on to warn that the famine would be so severe that the plenty would be forgotten.

Strange, isn't it?  Seven years of plenty.  Seven years of famine.  Seven years is seven years, right?  So how can one time period wipe out the memory of the other?  If you've ever been in a valley that seemed to stretch on for years, you'd understand the answer to that question.  Seven years of plenty seems like a drop in a bucket compared to seven years of famine.  Why?  Because we have a tendency to take our blessings for granted.  We expect life to treat us well.  We expect to have our needs met.  We expect God to bless us.  And when He does, we briefly acknowledge it (if that) and then continue on our way.

When life isn't so kind, however, we tend to keep count of all that's gone wrong.  We tally the injustices.  We log the times when God could have intervened but seemed nowhere to be found.  We chart the slight rise and continuous fall of our spirit and find ourselves asking, "God, how long will this last?"

I'm curious at what point during the seven years of famine the people forgot all about the time when they had plenty.  One year?  Halfway?  I doubt it was the entire seven years though that's not to say it didn't feel like it.  Yes, famines have a way of making time stand still, at least that's the way it seems to us.  The good times, if we remember them at all, seem so far away, yet the famine appears to stretch on forever with no hope in sight.  What can I say?  That's the nature of famines.

We don't, however, do ourselves any favors by dwelling more on the negative than we do on the positive.  Think about it for a moment.  When we need something, how many hours do we spend praying for it?  How many times do we ask God to grant our petition?  How often do we ask others to help us pray about it?  Then, when/if God does give us what we asked for, how do we respond?  Do we spend as many hours thanking Him as we did asking for what we wanted?  Do we continue to praise Him after the deed is done, or do we settle for a simple, "Thank you, Lord"?  Do we tell others what God has done and invite them to join in our worship?  Sometimes, maybe, but not usually.  Is it any wonder, then, that the good times are forgotten so easily?  If we don't spend time focusing on our blessings, they're very likely to be forgotten when tough times roll around.

Famine will come.  It is inevitable.  But we can be prepared.  By focusing on our blessings and adopting an attitude of gratitude day after day, we can help our brains hold onto the good times even when things turn bad.  Repetition aids learning, but it also supports memory.  If we don't want to forget the good times, we need to rehearse them over and over again to keep them fresh in our minds.

How has God already blessed you in this new year?  Think about it.  Write it down.  Praise the Lord for it.  Tell others about it.  Keep it fresh in your mind and in your heart.  After all, it's hard to forget something that you're always thinking about.

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