One of the praise songs we sing at our church has a simple little chorus that I love:
We will remember, we will remember;
We will remember the works of your hands.
We will stop and give You praise,
For great is Thy faithfulness.
That's what is necessary before genuine praise or thanksgiving: remembering. Praise for present blessings will be shallow unless we understand that the past is what has brought us to where we are now. It is the thing that gives perspective to the present. Not something to hold on to, as a child holds to a favorite toy, but something on which to build a future. And the past need not have been ideal in order to make good use of it. As my husband has said so often, it is possible to transform stumbling blocks into stepping-stones.
I have come to the conclusion that remembering usually ends up being very selective. This is readily seen by the way siblings view their childhoods. Sometimes, it’s as though they were raised by two different sets of parents! I must say, though, that husbands and wives can be just as narrow in their recollections. And since most marriages are made up of both memorable and unmemorable words and deeds, the memories depend as much on the “rememberer” as the actual circumstances.
You and I can do the same thing with God, as well. Earlier in the chapter, the Psalmist admits, “I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed” (v.3). The same man who looks back in regret in this verse, says in verse thirteen, “[W]ho is so great a God as our God?” What made the difference? If you read the Psalm, you will find that the man was going through a rough patch in the present. But rather than leave the present in the present, he reaches back into the past to other times of trouble and then lumps them altogether into a “pattern.” So, of course, he ends up being “overwhelmed.” He could just as easily have looked back at how God worked on his behalf in the past and found encouragement for not only the present but also the future.
Some of us, of course, have trouble remembering anything these days. I laughed when I read a story Barbara Bush recounts in her autobiography, Barbara Bush: a Memoir. Helen Hayes, she said, was speaking to a group of governor’s spouses visiting the While House and gave an illustration of two elderly ladies who met, playing bridge at a party. “As the party was breaking up, one said the other, ‘I enjoyed being with you so much and would like to call you for a game sometime. I am so embarrassed, but I just can’t remember your name. Would you give it to me?’ And the other lady paused, thought, and answered, ‘Do you have to have it right now?’” The moral of that story is simple: remember while you still can!
This Thanksgiving, the sincerity of our gratitude will be in direct proportion to the quality of our remembering. Romans 8:28 is just as true for the past as is for the present. “All things work [and worked] together for good…” Therefore, I can praise Him for it all—the hurts as well as the happiness; the disappointments as well as the delights; and the unanswered prayers as well as the answered ones. Answered prayers may show how much faith I have, but the unanswered ones reveal how much devotion I have.
Because all I have said is true, on this day before Thanksgiving, I sing with a full and overflowing heart: "I will remember, I will remember/I will remember the works of Your hands/I will stop and give You praise/For great is Thy faithfulness."
Will you join me?
 Bush, Barbara. Barbara Bush: a Memoir. New York: Charles Scribner’s Son’s, 1994. p,332.