The last several weeks have been hard for me. I have been stressed and overwhelmed. And at the peak of that struggle I had a choice. I could choose to fall apart and sink into depression (a choice I’ve made before) or I could choose something different. Having been down that dark road several times before, I did not want to do that again. So I chose to feed myself on truth. And I read something that changed the entire situation for me.
“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will He never show His favor again?
Has His unfailing love vanished forever?
Has His promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has He in anger withheld His compassion?’
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds. (Psalm 77:7-12)
Could the answer really be so simple as remembering what God has already done? Could reminding myself of what God has done in the past help me to set aside my discouragement about my present? As I pondered this, the phrase “raise my Ebenezer” kept popping into my mind. This is a line from a hymn that I’ve heard a couple times in my life, but to be honest I wasn’t even entirely sure what it meant. So I felt compelled to find out what it meant.
In 1st Samuel 7, the Philistines came to attack the Israelites. The Israelites became afraid and cried out to the Lord to save them. And God came through. He threw the Philistines into a panic giving the Israelites the ability to overpower their enemy. Samuel took a large stone, set it up, and called it Ebenezer which means “stone of help”. When he did this he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12)
Raising an Ebenezer is literally setting up a monument, making a point of remembering what God has done for us. Whether our situations are utterly devastating or simply just overwhelming and discouraging it is so hard to see what Jesus is doing in us and in our situations. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time wondering what God is trying to do and looking to see what He is doing. And when I’m discouraged or devastated it is all the more difficult to see Him moving in my situation.
But when I cannot see what He is doing I can choose to raise my Ebenezer. I can choose to remember what He has already done in my life. And that changes things. When we forget what He has done and we can’t see what He is doing we are fated to spend our days bitter and discouraged. Fear and doubt creep in and we are powerless to fight it.
But if we choose to raise our Ebenezer, to remember the miracles and the mercies that we have seen, if we choose to turn our gaze upon what our loving God has done for us, it makes it easier to hope and trust, even if we cannot see what He is presently doing. I don’t want to spend my life feeling discontent and discouraged. I want to have hope. Hope that what is happening now is only a small part of my story. Hope that God is moving in my situation and in my heart. Hope that no circumstance I face will be wasted.
I’m not saying it’s easy. The fact is, it is incredibly easy to forget what God has done. So often we only see what is happening in the here and now and everything in the past seems to fall from our minds. We have to choose to remember. We have to set aside what we see in front of us, the lies and doubts and fears, and replace them with truth, with the Ebenezer stones that remind us of who our God is and everything He has done for us.
Sometimes we need others to remind us. And sometimes we have to fight the feelings of frustration that come when God is not doing exactly what we want Him to do when we want Him to do it. It is not always easy.
But I believe that when life is hard and we cannot see God moving at all, and we choose to stand firm and raise our Ebenezer, it changes something inside of us. We still may have no idea what Jesus is doing in our lives, but we have hope that He is doing something. We are more easily able to trust that we are not stuck where we are but Jesus is moving us forward, even though it might seem slow and arduous.
And so I choose, in the midst of my stressful and overwhelming situations, to raise my Ebenezer. I choose to remember what my God has done for me and for the people around me. I choose to have hope that He is orchestrating a beautiful plan for my life even when I do not see it. I choose to trust, based on what I have seen Him do before, that He has not forgotten me, but is working behind the scenes.
Do not forget how Jesus has helped you, how He has saved you. Don’t let disappointment and discouragement blind you to the fact that God is working on your behalf. Because He is. He may not be doing what you want Him to do, but He is moving in your situation. So raise up that Ebenezer and stand firm knowing that Jesus has not forgotten you and is here to be your help and your guide through your circumstances. Make it a point to remember what He has done and have hope that He is not done with you.