Remembering and Forgetting: Types of Thinking

Introduction: the blog: Remembering and Forgetting: Types of Thinking explains God’s perspective in order for the believer to gain victory in every situation. Man is a thinking being and the believer has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Bible has much to say about remembering and thinking so that is where we go for answers (Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:15-17)).

Remembering and forgetting are common terms used in various times in one’s life. You and I remember and we forget. It is an interesting phenomenon. These two terms relate to the process of thinking and cognition and they are antonyms (opposites). Each has to do with recall. Each has to do with focusing. Some would say non-recall and non-focusing. Each has to do with one’s memory and the capacity or the act of calling up something from the past. Generally, an action or inaction result. The root derivation of the word to remember (Middle English, old French, and new Latin) is being mindful of something.

Why the background? The words are important because man as God’s image is a rational, thinking being. He thinks in both his heart (the inner man) and the brain. So thinking is a whole-person activity. I looked on the internet and found this quite: there’s the heart of the problem: No one really knows what the biological basis for a ‘thought’ is, so we can’t compute how fast a brain can produce them. Once you figure out the biological basis for a thought (and return from the Nobel ceremony) you can ask the question again and expect a reasonable scientific answer. Obviously the person had no idea that the Bible speaks volumes about thinking: the activity and the subject matter. So we move the Bible the Creator’s gift to mankind!

Remembering is considered active and forgetting is often considered passive. The ability to remember – hold in one’s memory – is part of God’s creative design for man. Remembering and forgetting are thinking terms and because man is a whole person he thinks and recalls in his inner man (heart) as well as in his brain which is part of his physical body. Both are ongoing processes and activities. Sometimes people find it easier to remember (and therefore not forget). The two are mutually exclusive! The situations are varied and are often linked with the status of one’s physical body, the status of one’s inner man (heart), and the circumstances in which one is placed by God.

In one sense, remembering means erecting a memorial – a reminder to focus on a person (Luke 17:32, Galatians 2:10; Hebrews 13:7), or a thing (John 15:20; 16:21; Acts 20:35), or a circumstance (John 16:4; Acts 20:31; Ephesians 2:11).  Such was the case with Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22), Joshua (4:6; 24:6), and Samuel (1 Samuel 7:12). The people were to remember the Passover as it pointed to the true Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:3-6 – 1 Corinthians 5:7).

Remembering has a purpose. Biblically, remembering is a means to recall who our good and purposeful God is – Creator, Controller, and Sustainer – so that the believer may grow in Christlikeness as God is trusted and glorified.

Failing to remember/forgetting is a failure to think about something or someone. Since man is a rational, thinking being he is always thinking. Forgetting or not remembering refers to a failure to focus on, or think of and consider a person or object because one is focused on something else. Both remembering and not remembering (forgetting) are activities of the whole person with resultant actions or inaction. They are not neutral. These are important distinctions for the Church and believers if they are to practice thinking God’s thoughts because they now have the mind of Christ (Isaiah 55:-8-9; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.)

One emphasis of the Old Testament is the nation of Israel’s lack of remembrance of Yahweh. They forgot Him. The Hebrew word is sakah which can be translated as ignore (Deuteronomy 32:15; Judges 3:7; 1 Samuel 12:9; Psalms. 78:11; 106:13, 21; Jeremiah 23:37; 50:6; Hosea 2:13; 13:6).

The Bible says that the Israelites forgot God. How is that possible?  It isn’t. If God is omnipresent and immense (two theological terms for God’s everywhere-ness), then you will always face God. If He is ever-present, and He is, there is no escaping God (Psalm 139). In one sense, you can’t miss him. But we do! Ignorantly and arrogantly we do or at least we think we do. God can’t be dethroned by mere mortals. But we do attempt to push Him back out of the way. Out of sight is thought or hoped to be out of mind and vice versa. This generates more problems. Life is complicated.

We compete with God for a space in His world which we call our own. Forgetting God is an active process of rebellion; it is not passive. It means our focus is not on Him but on us. It is a futile, losing effort. One will grow weary taking on God, attempting to deny him, and not admitting it. Forgetting God is part of Romans 1:18-20: suppressing the truth about God.

Consider the pandemic or even a messy house. Things are beyond our control. We then believe that they are beyond God’s control or that he is asleep at the wheel so to speak. How little we value our Triune God, the cross, the resurrection, and heaven now and eternally.

Forgetting God means remembering you are self-focused instead of focused on God and His wise and good control. This combination is associated with distrust and disobedience (Deuteronomy 8:11); idolatry (Deuteronomy 8:19); sinful fear (Isaiah 51:12-13); and rebellion against God, challenging and testing him (Psalm106:13-22). Moses writes in Deuteronomy 9:7: Remember and don’t forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath…. Moses uses the verbs, remember and don’t forget interchangeably. In this verse, he captured Israel rebellion.

Believers in every age are to never forget – they are to remember – that it is an antonym for to remember. To forget is to not remember God. God has commanded His people to remember and not forget him. This command is for our own good. To forget God is to not know him (see Hosea 2:13; 4:6; 13:4-6).  Forgetting and remembering are thinking activities and since the believer has the mind of Christ he can think as God would have him and as Jesus did thus imitating Him. When believers do life is simplified and God is glorified.

The term God’s providence is often misunderstood.  Often the word life as situations and circumstances have their own life – they just are. Nothing just is except God who has no beginning and no end. Circumstances are God’s handiwork even when those circumstances are unpleasant. They are the context of the whole-person activity called remembering (not forgetting) or forgetting (not remembering). Proper focus is one key to honoring God.

At times we hear or even say that we have a lot on our minds, that our plate is full. What are we really saying? See Luke 10:38-42 which describes Mary sitting and listening to Jesus and Martha serving and fretting. People would say that Martha was under pressure – stress. Pressure to perform and to serve was paramount. What she was undergoing took center stage. Performance mattered and the intensity heightened. She confronted Jesus with the words: don’t you care. How this must have stung Jesus to the core of His being! Yet Jesus told her that her priorities were wrong and that Mary, the “non-helping sister,” had her priorities right. Jesus counseled her to hold on to God’s truth – she really only needed one thing. She had forgotten God because she focused on herself in the wrong way and consequently focused on Mary and Jesus in the wrong way.

In the same way, we “forget” God because we are too busy thinking about something else and someone else – us. This is self-focused thinking and wanting. Rather, the truth will set you free – the truth about God and you as a believer. Learn to remember him, and you will not forget that God is God and you are not! Rightly understood, those truths set you free to trust and obey as privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3-4). Enjoying God throughout your time on this earth is a wonderful prelude for enjoying Him eternally!



  1. Focus and recall is the major step in “not forgetting” God. Write out three non-negotiable truths that help you focus on who God is and what he has done.
  2. Meditate on those truths throughout the day.
  3. Be willing to whoa yourself as you focus on self rather than on God, his person and work.
  4. Read Psalms105 and 106, the book of Deuteronomy (especially chapters 4, 6, 8), and 2 Peter. These books are the recall books. Repetition is not bad! Record what you learn and how you have applied them.
  5. When the mountains seem so high, the hole too deep, and the road so long, stop forgetting – start remembering/focusing on who you are in Christ and who God is. Bring your focus to what God is doing and record the results according to Romans 8:28-39.