In his message, Pastor Doug shares the story of Noah from Genesis 7:24-8:4 and how one of the loneliest and worst feelings in the world is to feel forgotten, but the good news is that we have a God who remembers us.
The first video below is just the sermon. If you would like to watch the entire service, scroll down a little more.
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Click this link to get a printable version of the sermon: Finding Hope When You Feel Forgotten by God
The video below is the entire service, and below that you’ll find the text for the message.
Finding Hope When You Feel Forgotten by God
As we continue to go through these days of physical distancing, staying at home is a very different experience whether one lives alone or if one is in a household with multiple people, especially with multiple children.
In one case, people may be having more alone time than they want or need. In the other, not being able to get any alone time may be the challenge!
I tried to think of a Bible story that people could relate to who were having extended time cooped up with family or alone as we sail these uncharted waters.
The story that came to mind was of Noah and his family stuck in the ark bobbing up and down on the water for months with no idea when or if their ordeal would end all the while coping with being in close quarters with one another and the needs, noise, and mess of all the animals in the ark.
The reason they were in the ark was because the violence and corruption of humanity became so great God couldn’t stand it any longer.
Genesis 6:5-6 says in some of the saddest verses in the Bible,
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
We’re also told (Genesis 6:9) “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.”
God says to Noah, “I will establish my covenant with you” (6:18) and gives Noah the unenviable assignment of building a massive ark and gathering two of every animal and bird before the flood comes.
Let’s join the story in Genesis 7.24-8.4.
“And the waters swelled on the earth for 150 days. But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of 150 days the water had abated; and in the 7th month, on the 17th day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.”
One of the loneliest and worst feelings in the world is to feel forgotten. To feel like no one would notice or care if we ceased to exist is one of the most depressing thoughts imaginable.
One measure of a life well lived is how many people will mourn our passing and remember us when we’re gone. While virtually no one is universally admired, how sad it would be to live our life in such a way that we won’t be missed or remembered fondly by at least a few people when we die.
If it’s painful to feel forgotten or forsaken by members of our family or our friends, how much more painful is it to feel forgotten by God?
Believing that God has forgotten us is worse than God disciplining us, because if God is disciplining us, God still cares for us.
Imagine being on the ark with Noah and his family in a terrible flood, trying to cope with the noise, mess, smells and the constant dampness and they had no idea how long they’d have to endure it all and no one had any Dramamine. Someone had to clean out those lower, second, and third decks for months – that must have been a terrible job for a crew of eight. I try to imagine myself as one of Noah’s son’s cleaning out a stall and wondering if God has forgotten us and abandoned us to our fate. What we’re enduring doesn’t seem quite as bad in comparison.
The theme of being forgotten by God runs throughout the Bible.
In tough times, the Israelites regularly asked if God had forgotten his people. Those of you who have been reading through the Psalms this month may have noticed this in many verses.
Psalm 10:11, laments the horrible deeds of the wicked who “think in their heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Psalm 13:1 despairs, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
At a time of tragedy, Lamentations 5:20 cries, “Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days?”
I wonder how many people have felt this way lately.
Psalm 42:9 states, “I say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?”
This verse expresses both confidence in the character of God and exasperation at the inaction of God. The thinking is, if God saw the condition we’re in, if God cares, then God will get us out of or improve our situation.
However, often the change comes not in a situation, but in our perspective about it.
A poor devout woman lived with her husband, their five children, and her mother in a one-room hut. The children were noisy, and the crowded conditions often produced loud arguments. There was never a quiet moment. Exasperated she went to see her Teacher. “Rabbi, life is miserable. My husband, our five children, my mother and I are so crowded in our little hut that we argue and quarrel every day. I can’t stand the noise. I’ll do whatever you say.”
The rabbi pondered her request for several minutes. Then he asked, “Do you have any chickens?” “Certainly” the woman replied. “We have six chickens, a rooster, and a goose.” “Excellent,” said the rabbi. “Go home and bring the chickens, the rooster, and the goose into you hut to live with you.” The woman was surprised, but she immediately left for home, promising to move the poultry into the house.
A week passed and the woman returned to the Rabbi. “Life is worse than before. In addition to the crying and quarreling, we now have honking, crowing, and clucking. Yesterday we all had feathers in our soup. The hut seems smaller and the children seem larger. Please help!” The Teacher considered the woman’s words before he spoke. “Do you have a goat?” “Yes,” she said slowly. “We have an old goat, tied to a pole behind our house.” “Excellent,” said the Rabbi. “Untie the goat and let it live in the hut with you.” “Teacher, we are already crowded,” the woman cried.
“You did ask for my help, didn’t you?” the Teacher responded.
The poor woman walked home, untied the goat, and brought it into the hut.
Five days later she returned. “Teacher,” she said desperately, “everything is worse. Now in addition to the crying, quarreling, honking, crowing, and clucking, we have a goat pushing and butting everyone with his horns. The hut seems even smaller.”
The Rabbi asked, “Do you have a cow?”
“Yes,” the woman said fearfully, “we have a cow.”
“Go home and take the cow into your hut,”
“Oh, no, rabbi,” the woman cried. “My family will be angry.” “Tell them I ordered it.”
The poor woman went home and told her husband to move the cow into the hut.
“Is the Teacher crazy?” he shouted. Still they moved the cow into the hut.
Three days later the woman returned. “Life’s a nightmare. Now in addition to the crying, quarreling, honking, crowing, clucking, and butting, the cow tramples everything. We all argue and shout at one another. Help me, please!”
The Teacher smiled, “Go home and let the animals out of your hut.”
The woman turned and ran home as fast as she could run. As she ran, she yelled, “Thank you, Teacher, thank you.”
As soon as she reached home the woman and her husband let the cow, the goat, the chickens, the goose, and the rooster out of their hut. That night the poor couple and their family slept peacefully. There was no honking crowing, clucking, butting or trampling. There was also no arguing or fighting. The very next morning the woman and her husband came to the Teacher. “We wish to thank you for your help. We love our home. It is so quiet, peaceful, and roomy.”
I think Noah and his family, as they were crowded in the ark with all the animals, could relate to that story.
Maybe some of us who are having more family time together at home can as well.
Perhaps Noah’s family wondered if God had forsaken them or forgotten them as they bobbed around in the crowded ark.
At a later point in Israel’s history the prophet Isaiah proclaimed (Isaiah 49:14),
“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
The issue of being forgotten is very powerful. Faith asks us to believe that even the most terrible events that may occur are not the result of being forgotten by God. Many such events are more likely the result of human sin, corruption, evil, violence and wickedness. In other cases, we may never discern a cause.
In the flood narrative, human violence, wickedness, and corruption brought this catastrophe. People were living in ways that were destructive and evil and refused to change their ways, to turn around, or to repent and God finally was so angry and sorry that the Lord wished humanity hadn’t even been created and says basically, “Enough is enough,” and tells Noah to build the ark and gather the animals.
Yet, God is like a grieving parent, and God has not forgotten the people and creatures God created.
The key verse is Genesis 8:1,
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.”
God remembered Noah. God remembered all the animals.
The good news is that we have a God who remembers us.
Sometimes during a storm, we may feel like no one cares and no one understands what we’re going through, or worse that God has forgotten us, but God’s love is unfailing.
Often, we experience the love of God through other people and the Lord works through our lives to encourage and support others.
Yet in life we all let one another down and hurt one another. We may get so focused on ourselves that we forget the flood or storm someone else is going through.
We’re all limited in the amount of time, energy, and emotion we have to invest, but God is infinite.
God remembers us… no matter what… in every moment. God remembers us. That never changes. God doesn’t say “I forgot about you… how are you doing these days?” We worship a God who remembers each of us day by day and night by night
Job who went through as much heartache and trouble as anyone expresses our heartfelt desire to know we’re remembered by God. 14:13, “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!”
I’d guess that’s how Noah and his family probably felt. “Appoint a time, remember us, and get us out of here!” Many of us likely feel the same way.
While we say we want God to remember us, it’s more likely that we forget God than God forgets us.
A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock on the supply cabinet. She had been told the combination but couldn’t quite remember it. Finally, she went to the pastor’s study and asked for help.
The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial. After the first two numbers he paused and stared blankly for a moment.
Finally, he looked serenely heavenward and his lips moved silently. Then he looked back at the lock, and quickly turned to the final number, and opened the lock. The teacher was amazed. “I’m in awe at your faith, pastor,” she said. “It’s nothing,” he answered. “The number is on a piece of tape on the ceiling.”
Sometimes we may need a piece of tape on the ceiling to help us remember God.
Psalm 105:5 urges us, “Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.”
Reading the Bible, taking a walk, journaling and writing, sharing things you’re grateful for as well as other thoughts and feelings, noticing what God has done, letting God teach us through creation, through prayer – these are ways we remember God before the storms come and when we’re going through them.
The story of Noah teaches us that our hope rests with God.
Those of us who are Christians know that God’s grief over humanity’s violence and corruption didn’t end with Noah’s generation. God continued to grieve over human violence and sinfulness and ultimately God sent Jesus who taught us how to live and died on the cross for us.
God’s last word in the story of Noah is (Genesis 9:15), “I will remember my covenant.”
Even in a time of judgment, God remembers mercy. Noah and his family were in the ark for about one year and 17 days, so we still have a ways to go before we reach that.
As God remembered Noah, God remembers you and me.
There’s no trial so severe that it can separate us from the God who loves us.
That’s what Paul affirms for us in Romans 8:37-39,
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God will remember God’s people. How about us? Will we remember God? As Jean Valjean sings in Les Misérables, “He gave me hope when hope was gone, he gave me strength to journey on.” That’s what hope does. You haven’t been forgotten. God remembers you.
Creator God help us to be faithful and obedient during the storms of life. The flood in Noah’s day came because of violence, corruption, and wickedness, but even in those days Noah was righteous and walked with you. Help us to be like Noah. May we be obedient and faithful not forgetting in challenging days what you revealed to us in better times. Let us not be like those who failed to repent and neglected to change their ways and were caught up in the flood. Rather may we trust ourselves completely to your saving grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, knowing that if we trust in and live for the One who lived and died for us, you will always remember us and hold us fast in your love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Blessing from one of the Psalms for today, Psalm 145:13b-14, 18
The Lord is faithful in all his words and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.