What do you think? Is there ever a time when forgetting is better than remembering?
The answer depends on what we mean by forgetting. Most of the time, we speak of forgetfulness as a negative thing. Indeed, failing to remember important things — big or small — is a problem we all struggle with to some degree. It’s a failure to know something; and certainly none of us knows everything.
But God does know everything. He lives in eternity. He sees the past, present, and future with equal clarity and perspicacity. There is nothing He does not know. Yet we find in Jeremiah 31:34 that in the context of the new covenant God promised to make with His people, He would not remember their sin any more.
This is no contradiction. It does not mean that God ceases to know something He once knew. Rather, it means that God will not think about that sin; He will not call it to mind, or make any mention or remembrance of it. This is the sense of godly forgetfulness.
Truly there is a time to remember, and a time to forget in a godly way. This is quite different from being unable to recall something you once knew. It’s also quite different from ignoring or minimizing something. Rather, it is choosing to release and not dwell on a matter in our minds, and in our speech and relationships. In the context of a sin or offense, godly forgetting is part of a process we call forgiveness — whether extended or received.
The Apostle Paul gave us an example of this by the way he spoke of his past life, before believing in Christ. Several times in his epistles he mentioned the things he had done. But in Philippians 3:13-14, he talked about forgetting them, and focusing on something else — the calling of God. Clearly this was not about ceasing to have the memories, but about the change of focus.
The new article for this month speaks to this topic: “The Essential Art of Forgetting”.
Forgiveness is a vital but often difficult process. You can read more about it in the article “The Importance of Forgiving Others”. Ultimately, forgiveness is motivated out of the joy of receiving God’s forgiveness.