Remembrance: When remembering becomes overwhelming

Last Updated on 6 November 2023 by Ann-Marie Nye

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it,  saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!
Luke 19 v41-42

Many worship leaders face the approach of Remembrance Sunday with some trepidation, acutely aware of the responsibility on our shoulders to mark the day with the poignancy and dignity it deserves.

The purpose of Remembrance Sunday is to do just that – to remember. We mark the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives for a greater cause, but we also remember the horrors involved, in the hope that, somehow, they might just remind us to recognise and strive for the ‘things that make for peace’.

This year the remembrance of historic wars coupled with the current conflicts which rage so viciously is a heavy load for our collective hearts to bear. Suffering upon suffering and a seemingly relentless cycle of death and destruction leave us overcome with grief for this broken world.

In my conversations recently both within and without the church, the theme which recurs most is this sense of overwhelm and hopelessness when considering the battles raging in our world. Many people are experiencing a complex mix of barely managing to watch the devastating scenes of suffering because they are too painful, and guilt when not giving it their attention, acutely aware that for thousands this is their actual, living, nightmare.

Overwhelm is not an unreasonable emotion to experience right now. Remembering can be hard. Feeling helpless is hard.

Sometimes all we can do is weep with Jesus, just as he stood looking over Jerusalem and was moved to tears, longing for the people to recognise the ‘things that make for peace’.

But we also need reminding that remembering doesn’t just include recalling the darkness. As Christians we are compelled to remember the God who spoke into the darkness, the God who has been faithful through the generations and is our refuge and strength when the storms rage.

The people of God don’t have a good track record when it comes to remembering this. The Bible is littered with stories of people with short memories who forgot the faithfulness of God. The story of the Exodus, for example, provides rich pickings on this subject. God’s dramatic rescue mission of his people sees them swing between devotion and despondency on a regular basis. Sometimes it was all too overwhelming, and their circumstances left them questioning what God was up to. We, too, can often oscillate between clinging to God’s promises on the one hand and feeling despair and impatience on the other.

We struggle. Jesus struggled too. He stood over Jerusalem, and he cried. They were tears of longing and pain. Today many of us are looking to that land, and many other lands, and shedding tears. There is a broken spirit and a sense of hopelessness that hangs in the air.

Jesus wept.

But then he entered Jerusalem and did something about it. He gave himself up on the cross in the ultimate act of self-giving love. He broke the chains and ushered in a new kingdom which we too are invited into. A kingdom where power is to be found in weakness, where death is swallowed up in victory and love always finds a way.

This Remembrance Sunday, as we hold the darkness in our hearts and acknowledge its weight, may we also remember the mighty works of our God. May we know with confidence that the light who came into the darkness holds us and all the world’s struggles in the mystery and wonder of his eternal love.

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
    I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work
    and muse on your mighty deeds.
 Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is so great as our God?

Psalm 77 v11-13

Photos by Mike Thomason, High Cross Church, Camberley.


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