The Warfare of Forgetfulness & Dementia in the Bible

They did not remember the abundance of God’s steadfast love… 
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

– Psalms 106:7-8

Do you feel like it’s hard to remember important things? Do you keep getting distracted from positive goals that you have? Can you recall the last sermon you heard in church? Do you remember the last thing God did for you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re suffering from spiritual warfare on multiple fronts. This warfare of forgetfulness comes at us in many forms, and one extremely powerful form is dementia. Other forms are simply a lack of discipline, or procrastination, or things that are less physical.

In this post, we’re going to look at what type of spiritual warfare is used to cause our forgetfulness. We’ll then look at the hope that comes in the midst of these difficult circumstances, such as dementia, and the possibility of forgetting who God is.

The Angles of Attack

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown

– Matthew 13:3-8

In this parable, Jesus outlines the three ways we are attacked. And if we lose to any of them, we’ll begin to forget about God in different capacities. But this parable is difficult to understand. The disciples knew this:

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

– Matthew 13:10

So let’s go through these and how they relate to forgetfulness, and dementia.

In One Ear, and Out the Other

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

– Matthew 13:19

The first angle of attack focuses on our vulnerability to Satan. When faced with something good and positive, Godly and righteous, it may simply not even register with us at all. It goes in one ear, and out the other. This is almost worse than forgetfulness in itself, because we likely won’t even recognize it in the first place. And yet, it’s still a problem that revolves around memory.

In the case of someone having dementia, or other cognitive issues, it’s likely that when you interact with them, there’s times when they’re unresponsive, or completely confused by what you’re saying. So confused, that nothing really registers. We can blame dementia, or another ailment, or the individual themself. But know that regardless of the disease or circumstance, if someone hears the truth of God and it doesn’t make sense to them, Jesus is very clear that it’s because Satan has taken it away before it can grow.

For the ultimate example of this angle of attack, recall that when face to face with truth itself, Jesus Christ, Pilate simply didn’t get it, and said:

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

– John 18:38

One last piece of this attack is our outright defiance of God. Refusal to follow God almost doesn’t even seem like an example of forgetfulness, because we know exactly what we’re doing. But nonetheless, defiance of God is ultimately a willful act of not remembering God’s works:

They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law, and forgot His works, and His wonders that He had shown them.

– Psalms 78:10-11

God Won’t Let Me Forget!

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

– Matthew 13:20-21

You might believe that if you have enough faith in God, and truly believe in him, he won’t let you forget about him. But scripture is clear that trials and harm do certainly come to Christians. This fact is built into the parable:

When trouble or persecution comes because of the word

It doesn’t say if it comes, but when. So what is this angle of attack on forgetfulness? Troubles, pain, and blame. Our pain can overtake our memory of God’s sovereignty. Here’s an example of this happening:

How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness!

– Job 29:2-3

In this example, Job is lamenting on his troubles. So much so, that he becomes forgetful. What did he forget? That God is still watching over him.

This attack on our memory is dangerous, because we fall down a path of negativity, self pity, and loneliness. These are all things that are in opposition to righteous behavior. But this is also an extremely common cause of forgetfulness in general. If you find yourself forgetting Godly things, is it because of painful situations that you’re in right now? It’s easy to lose sight of God when we’re suffering:

How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy.

– Psalm 78:40-42

It grieves God when we forget about him while we’re in the wilderness of our life. God’s always right there, but when we succumb to this spiritual attack, we can’t see him, and we forget about him.

I Have Better Things to Do

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

– Matthew 13:22

The last form of attack on our memory comes from prosperity, and is often the opposite of the seed that dries in the sun, which comes from persecution and the troubles of life. When everything is going well in life, and we’re comfortable, we can feel like we just don’t need God anymore:

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

– Deuteronomy 8:11-13

Are you going to Church, but come home and forget all about it? When was the last time you prayed alone? Are you not keeping up with your relationships like you used to? Are you not reaching out to family as much? When churches were mostly virtual, did you stop bothering with it altogether? This is because your prosperity, and focus on worldly growth is choking your righteousness:

Israel’s watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, every one for his own gain, from his own territory.

“Come,” one says, “I will bring wine, And we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; Tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant.”

– Isaiah 56:10-12

What Can We Do?

This is all very troubling, and I fall prey to these forms of forgetfulness a lot. It seems bleak, like there’s nothing we can possibly do! And that’s just it. We can try as hard as we can, but we’ll still forget. We can have the strongest mind on earth, but then later in life have dementia, and our strong mind will deteriorate against our will, and we’ll forget.

What happens to those who have dementia and forget about God, who forget about their own salvation? What happens to those who forget God during their persecution? What happens to those who forget God during in their prosperity? Can God fix my memory?

If you’re concerned with your own dementia, or someone else’s, know that God is mightier than the minds of all people, and saves us for the sake of showing his true character and power:

They did not remember the abundance of God’s steadfast love…
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

– Psalms 106:7-8

God is the author of our minds, and the resurrection of Christ overpowers our forgetfulness so much, that what we forget can be turned into something fruitful:

Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 3:13-14

Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house. And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

– Genesis 41:51-52

While God has taken care of our salvation, we can exhibit fruitful change in our lives while our minds are still able. Here are some simple solutions to help fight against the three angles of attack on our memory:

Birds Eating the Seeds

The closer you are in alignment with God’s will, the harder it is to have the truth taken from you. Nonetheless, dementia can make our strong minds very weak. Before she died in 2017, my grandma had signs of dementia, and was forgetting about a lot of things. But the power of God is so far beyond this, and she never forgot her favorite Bible verse:

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You.

– Isaiah 26:3

Keep your mind on God, and those birds will have a very difficult time picking up the seeds of truth in your life.

Seeds Drying in the Sun

Persecution is certainly difficult to endure, but know this:

No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

– Proverbs 12:21

The righteous are never overtaken. Know that in the beginning, Job responded righteously to his trials:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

– Job 1:20-22

Pray often to God, and remember the common destiny of the righteous and the wicked:

All share a common destiny–the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.

– Ecclesiastes 9:2

Know that there are great and good things that come from persecution:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

– Romans 5:3-4

Seeds Choked by Thorns

Humility is the key to this attack, and constant reliance on God. One of the most powerful ways to not be choked by the world, is to fast. Fasting removes all distractions, even food, and forces us to focus entirely on God, and shut everything else out. This is us “forgetting” about the world, and remembering the only thing that matters.

A wonderful example of this is Esther, who had a great position of influence, power, and worldly things. But when the time came to return to God, she fasted to remove these thorns in her life:

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

– Esther 4:15-16

If All Else Fails

If you can’t remember to do these things, you have one option left: God’s memory. Pray to God to remember you, beg him to not forget about you. Because a day is coming when we will all be judged, and Christ will reveal his own memory about you:

Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you.

– Matthew 7:22-23

Pray to God like the thief on the cross spoke to Jesus:

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

– Luke 23:42-43

Pray to God like Samson, after failing to follow God’s commands and getting captured:

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

– Judges 16:28

Pray to God like Nehemiah:

Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out my loyal deeds which I have performed for the house of my God and its services.

– Nehemiah 13:14

Pray to God like Hezekiah, before nearly dying to his disease:

Remember me, Lord,” he said, “how I have walked in your presence with integrity, with an undivided heart, and I have accomplished what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept deeply.

– 2 Kings 20:3

And finally, I’ll conclude this topic with the Psalmist’s prayer, which includes the verse at the very beginning of this post:

Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.

– Psalms 106:4-8

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