As a reader of Bible studies and listener of sermons, I'm familiar with a technique we often employ when looking at Scripture. We read a verse, verses, a chapter, and then either we try or our teacher encourages us to apply it to our lives. Sometimes that's easier said than done.
Recently I've come across some wording that connects with me. It's better than the obvious: "how would you apply this to your life?" The wording says: "What would this look like in your life?" I don't know why, but I just like it better. It concedes that I might need to apply it in different ways than you. It makes it more personal and doesn't let me answer in generalities. It makes me be specific in my answer and visualize my obedience.
So, here's the today's abstract truth, students: God is faithful.
On the anniversary of 9/11, my stomach turns at the memory. Not only that, but I look around me and see so many of my loved ones weathering storms. I mean, STORMS. We're talking, "How will I EVER get through this?" kind of storms. And I know in my head that God is faithful. I know in my LIFE that God is faithful. And I read in the Word that God is faithful. But I look around me and, you guys? The storms continue to rage around my loved ones. 9/11 still happened.
This is not a post on why a good God lets bad things happen. Entire books have been written about it, and the most steadfast of believers still often struggles with that question. We are allowed to ask and to discuss, but that's not what I want to ask.
I believe that God is faithful. Deut 7:9 "Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is God. He is a faithful God, keeping his promise of love to a thousand generations." 1 Corinthians 1:9 "God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." These are just a few of the many Scriptures telling me as much.
Here's what I want to ask: What does that look like in your life? My life? What does that look like in the eye of the storm?
What does "faithful" really mean?
What about the song? You know, THE song about faithfulness. I could have sworn it says everything will be OK. But then I studied the words:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changes not, They compassions they fail not
As thou hast been, Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness; great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand has provided
Great is They faithfulness, Lord unto me.
That old song gave me huge insight into the concept of faithfulness. Not changing. Loyal. No shadow of turning. New mercies every day. Providing all I need. I see no lyrics about shielding us from pain or sadness.
By definition, faithfulness means: true to one's word and promises; constant; reliable and trusted. Well, shoot. I can think of one promise off the top of my head. In John 16:33 Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." Yes, no kidding. But he continues to say "But take heart, I have overcome the world." Not "Someday, after terrorists and fatal illnesses ravage your world, I will fix it." No. I HAVE overcome the world. OK, definitely liking that part of the faithfulness a little better.
To describe faithfulness in more casual terms, I think of how we use the word "faithful" to describe volunteers in any organization. We say "they are such faithful volunteers." It means that, even when it's inconvenient, they still come. It means THEY CONTINUE TO SHOW UP--no matter what.
I propose that is what God's faithfulness looks like. In my life and yours. He continues to show up. No matter what. Yes, He allows the storms. Sometimes he shows his faithfulness by calming the storm, by healing the cancer, by mending the relationship, by providing a new job, by bringing the child finally home. And sometimes he shows his faithfulness by showing up in other ways.
In my life, God's faithfulness has manifested most often through His people. When I have been drowning, God's people in my life lifted me up. They are my lifejackets. They surround me and comfort me. They love on me and are His hands and feet and words to a weary soul. THAT IS WHAT GOD'S FAITHFULNESS LOOKS LIKE.
I have a friend who is at the center of more than one kind of storm, and some days--many days--she is barely keeping her head above water. One of her storms is financial. And then not once, but TWICE in the last few months, God provided unexpected income almost to the exact dollar her family needed to make ends meet. THAT IS WHAT GOD'S FAITHFULNESS LOOKS LIKE.
I've had loved ones who struggle with depression and/or anxiety, or other mental health issues. And sometimes God takes away the struggle, other times a friend recommends the perfect counselor. Or a doctor finds just the right combination of medications that relieve the burden. Or, despite the struggle, that person's marriage is thriving and full of love. THAT IS WHAT GOD'S FAITHFULNESS LOOKS LIKE.
I have a friend who was smacked in the face with an unfaithful spouse and bitter, toxic divorce. God did not heal her marriage. But he gave her the strength to face life as a single mom, day after day. He provided a great job and consistent childcare, friends who love her and wanted to help her through. And eventually, brought a godly man who loves her deeply and wants to parent with her. THAT IS WHAT GOD'S FAITHFULNESS LOOKS LIKE.
I now have dozens of friends in the adoption world. Half are in the seemingly endless, torturous wait for red tape to clear so they can bring their child home. The other half are in the trenches of parenting a hurting child, which is a storm so unique and private that often others don't even know you're in it. And yet--we have each other. And so often financial assistance comes to meet the next payment when we least expect it. Or a parent who is ahead of us in the journey knows just what to say to get us through another day. Or our child has a minor breakthrough in their attachment. THAT IS WHAT GOD'S FAITHFULNESS LOOKS LIKE.
And sometimes? Sometimes there is no reprieve. No one comforts you. No check comes in the mail. The loved one dies. The child's file gets lost and they linger in an orphanage. The illness progresses. And God's faithfulness can only be found in the smallest of places. It's a teeny, tiny seed of hope, deep in your own heart, not planted there by a loving spouse, wise minister or special friend, but planted there by what remains of your own weak faith. Sometimes our own belief that God is faithful and He is with me--THAT IS WHAT GOD'S FAITHFULNESS LOOKS LIKE.
I admit: it's not what my humanness desires from faithfulness. I would so rather believe that a faithful God would always protect me from harm, would smooth my path from pain and shelter me from any storm. But since it's pretty clear He's keeping His promise about having trouble in this world, I'm clinging to the other promises as well. Such as "I will never leave you or forsake you." Hebrews 13:5; "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18; "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." Psalm 23:4; "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
And I will continue to look through the storms and ask: what does God's faithfulness look like? May I never cease to seek the answers and be amazed and blessed by what I find.