Can God Forget Us?

This question arose for me out of a tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Part of the funeral service for an Orthodox Christian is a song called “Memory Eternal.” This song is a lamentation for the departed as well as a prayer to God to remember the person who has departed this life. Many have wondered if God can or has forgotten about us. Maybe he has, but I would argue that his memory is different than ours.

My answer to the question of God’s memory has changed several times. In the beginning I said no because God is omniscient. Eventually I said no because a loving God would never forget His creation. Now I say that God’s memory may be different than how we interpret it. Maybe God’s memory does not operate the way ours does.

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Almost all of the scripture about being remembered by God is found in the Old Testament. Samson cried out while weeping, “Lord, my Lord, remember me now” when asking for his strength to return one more time. Judges 16:28

Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, makes a vow which begins “O Lord, my God of Sabaoth, if you are looking, look with favor upon the lowly state of Your handmaiden and remember me” 1 Kingdoms 1:11

In the book of Nehemiah we hear several cries for remembrance. Nehemiah seeks God to, “Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.” Nehemiah 5:19. Nehemiah again asks God to remember in 6:14, “My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.” In chapter 13, verse 14, Nehemiah cries out to God, “Remember me, O my God, concerning this (restoring some tithes), and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for its services.” The book ends with a prayer for the priesthood, “Remember them, God, because of the rights of inheritance of the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.” 13:29.

In the next book according to Easter Orthodox Canon of the Old Testament, the book of Tobit includes a petition for remembrance in chapter three, “Remember me and look upon me with favor.” Tobit 3:3.

The book of Psalms speaks of God’s memory in 24, “Remember Your compassion, O Lord, and Your mercy, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor of my ignorance; But remember me according to Your mercy,” Psalm 24: 6-7.

Job seeks to be remembered in chapter 14, verse 13, “For would that You had kept me in the grave, that You had hidden me until Your wrath ceases, And that You would appoint me a set time in which You would remember me.”

And these are only a few references of many which are present in the Old Testament. However, this idea of God’s memory continues into the New Testament. As Jesus is hanging on the cross in agony, one thief turns to the other and says,

“Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he (the thief) said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:40-43.

May God remember you, your prayers, and your needs now that He has come into His kingdom.