But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it” (Jer. 20:9).*
I’m no psychologist—that’s my wife’s career—but the phenomenon of amnesia intrigues me. The prospect of forgetting long periods of time is somewhat troubling. Actually, the prospect of forgetting short periods of time troubles me as well. As I’m sure it seriously troubles her sometimes.
For example, I recently went upstairs and forgot why I was there. My wife’s professional journals and textbooks give her phrases to use on me: “retrograde amnesia,” “post-traumatic amnesia,” and “dissociative amnesia.”
Of course, these phrases were not invented to use on her husband. They were developed to describe a variety of illnesses. Nevertheless, I think I may have a contribution to make to her profession—at least, to her phrase collection. For what I couldn’t find in her textbook sources was the phenomenon of convenient amnesia. You won’t find this term in any textbooks or journals, or in your venerated Merriam Webster. But you will in the Urban Dictionary. According to my Urban Dictionary, convenient amnesia is the intentional forgetting of certain facts to twist things so that you cannot be proven wrong.
While this definition may be available only in the Urban Dictionary, the phenomenon it describes has existed at least since the seventh to sixth century B.C. times of weeping prophet Jeremiah. Here he is: “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire” (Jer. 20:9). Jeremiah is clearly describing the reality of convenient amnesia. And what do you know? He’s trying to forget conveniently about business he’s got with his God.
Jeremiah’s complaint may be familiar, which is no validation.
But how does anyone succeed in not remembering God? Indeed, how does anyone explicitly choose and plan to forget God? Yet here we have Jeremiah musing over plans of forgetting God, forgetting the things of God, forgetting that God Himself touched him on the mouth and told him, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9). As a matter fact, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (verse 5).
After all God has done for Jeremiah, Jeremiah still reflects on the possibility of forgetting Him. Perhaps, though, we should not be too hard on Jeremiah before looking ourselves up in a memory mirror. We may ourselves try to forget God, not only when things are bad, but also sometimes when life is good. Thankfully, the Lord has provided principles to be learned from Jeremiah’s potential affliction, that may help us in these times.
Because this affliction is a spiritual one, its solution needs to be a spiritual one: matters of the spirit make sense to the spiritual evaluator (see 1 Cor. 2:14). Here, then, is a three-part prescription of spiritual principles for curing this spiritual affliction.
Remember how it used to be: instead of being mad at God, sufferers should turn to remember how things used to be between them and God; what God said at the start of the relationship. Jeremiah’s lament about God’s deceiving him, about everyone’s making him a laughingstock (Jer. 20:7), implies that he has already forgotten something important. His Lord might well reply to his complaint, Isn’t this precisely what I promised you, Jeremiah? Remember? “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you” (Jer. 7:27). Remember that, Jeremiah?
Haven’t we all met in the mirror, perhaps, an individual who began a ministry for the Lord with great expectations, only to find that the plentiful harvest turns out not to be their lot? There may indeed be such a harvest; but not in the Lord’s plans for them. Such times demand that we remember our actual assignment, planting the seed, perhaps, and God’s commitment to be responsible for the rest.
Remember who your commissioner is: God, not we, defines our ministry and message: Jeremiah’s complaining about his work assignment may be strongly familiar (which is no validation): “And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into captivity; and you will enter Babylon, and there you will die, and there you will be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have falsely prophesied” (Jer. 20:6). That’s Jeremiah’s work.
How much would he have preferred, “Ten thousand will fall next to you, but it won’t touch you” (see Ps. 91:7)! Or “Coming out with your hands up!” Or “Your breakthrough is on the way” or “Everyone in your row is gonna be millionaires!” Sorry, Brother Jerry! You get to do “Doomsday!” Sorry, teacher, preacher, servant of God—“Fire and brimstone!” is legit too! You just need to listen to your Great Commissioner. It will settle and impel you quite enough.
Give your heart a chance. Jeremiah admits this: when he determines not to carry out his assignment, he is forced to concede that “in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it” (Jer. 20:9).
So preacher, teacher, doctor, lawyer, postgrad, first-year student or otherwise, give your heart a chance: your God put something in you—not for you to hide it and die, but for you to share it and live; you and many besides who hear from God through you.
So forget it, dear child of God: forget about convenient amnesia!
*Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Jason Craig is a student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He and his wife, Krissy, preach from the same text (see pp. 58, 59).