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5 Ways to Remember God’s Faithfulness in Chronic Illness

Can you believe it’s the end of 2021 already? I can’t. It seems like we started January yesterday, and here we are coming to another January in just a few days.

It’s the time of year when we look back in reflection over the past twelve months and look ahead in anticipation to the next twelve months. We set goals, we make changes, we collect memories and store them away.

When we have a chronic illness, it’s easy to look back and see only the difficulties, the frustrations, and the disappointments of the past twelve months. The diagnoses that didn’t come. The surgeries that didn’t help. The places we couldn’t go, things we couldn’t do because of the pain, fatigue, and other problems that still haven’t gone away.

Over and over in Scripture, however, especially in the Psalms, God tells us how important it is to remember what He’s done in the past:

And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the works of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

Psalm 77:10-15

No matter our present circumstances, when we call to mind God’s works of the past, they remind us of who He is, of the identity and character that never change. They tell us that the same God who did _____ in the past is the same God who is with us now and will be in our future. What a boost to our faith!

So as we look back on 2021, I challenge you even as I challenge myself to “remember the years of the Most High.” Search for His works in these past twelve months, reflect on what each one tells you about God, and let those truths seep into your soul, refreshing you for today and giving you confidence for tomorrow (and the New Year).

If you’re not sure what that might look like or where to start, here are five practical suggestions:

Journal

Everybody keeps a different kind of journal–some write just about their lives and activities, some pour out all their emotions and dreams, others keep track of prayer requests or blessings.

Pick what style works for you and give it a try. You can use a cheap spiral-bound notebook and pencil or treat yourself to a fancy diary and special pen. Some friends write an entry every day, while others (like me) average every few days or so.

I’ve been journaling since 2005, and whenever I read back through my life a year, two years, or ten years ago, I never fail to be uplifted by seeing again what God has done for me.

All my journals since 2005

Blessing Box

Some of my friends like to record God’s works this way, by writing each new blessing, answer to prayer, or encouragement on a piece of paper (with the date) and putting the paper in a special box. When they need encouragement or want to take a walk down blessing/memory lane, they open the box and read through the papers.

Ebenezer Wall

This may not be for everyone, but I love it. It was something I dreamed of for years, and when I got a new and larger room a couple years ago, I couldn’t wait to start it.

Many of the “God stories” in my life relate to documents of some kind, so I printed these documents, framed them (in fifty-cent frames from the dollar store), and hung them on my open wall. I love being able to look at each document and remind myself that my God is the God who gifted me with an unexpected book contract, the God who helped me through my overseas classes, the God who allowed me to still finish my bachelor’s in four years, the God who worked in Emily’s heart and mine at the same time to bring The Valley to be, and so on. It has truly encouraged my heart and restored my faith many times.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

I Samuel 7:12
This was when I first started; I have frames all the way to the lightswitch now

Memory Notebook

A friend bought me this small, five-year notebook and told me how she uses her own to keep track of blessings. Each page has the same date in five consecutive years so that, by the time you finish the notebook, you have five years’ worth of memories–or blessings–to read through.

The Bible

Not everyone likes to write in their Bible, but if you don’t mind the idea (or already do it), it’s another great way to record things God has done. If a passage speaks to you about a certain matter of your heart or impacts you during a specific circumstance, write the date and a short note beside that passage.

Next time you’re flipping through your Bible or reading that passage, you’ll see that note, and it will encourage you with the reminder of what God did as well as make the passage that much sweeter to you.

Verse 14 is what spoke to me; the email I got five months later from one of my book research contacts is part of my Ebenezer Wall

How do you keep track of God’s works? Do you take time to look over these reminders? What blessings, answers to prayer, or other “works of the LORD” stand out to you from 2021?

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