We found the words of that old favorite hymn last week, tucked into the middle of Jeremiah’s lament for his people. Regardless of how bad the destruction in his war-torn land, how deep the ache of his grief and loss, he found hope springing up when he realized that the mercy and compassion of God would never fail, would never give up, never run out on them. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23)
Of all the gardening results of the Holy Spirit’s work in us, faithfulness was the one I never considered much, mostly because my natural abilities to persevere tended to get in the way. But in studying faithfulness, I see this, that focus and determination to stick with a job to the very end is a pale and laborious imitation of the joy-strength the Holy Spirit gives us as we go. Without His presence, the way often seems overwhelmingly difficult– the load too heavy to carry. To live with faithfulness and run well, with joy and peace and hope for the future, requires something more than I can summon in myself.
One of the women said it well in small group the other night, that Faithfulness is the everyday outworking of what we believe, the consistent outpouring action of the Faith we hold in our hearts, new every morning– saying no to temptations and selfishness, fulfilling the roles we have been given, doing our best with what we have to glorify the Giver and bring honor to His Name, serving with willing hands and cheerful hearts like Jesus did….and then doing it all over again the next day and the next. We can see how it is a result of the Holy Spirit’s very present help, offered anew every morning from the Lord’s unfailing compassion and mercy for us. He is the One who is faithful to us, giving us the strength to be faithful ourselves. Faithfulness even makes it through the horrors of battlefields and the famine of wastelands…not because we are strong enough to keep pushing on, but because there is Someone who can carry us.
Maybe that was what Jeremiah knew, shining through his grief: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26) When you set your faith on God’s nature and His good plans, and see Him more clearly than your circumstances all around, you can do the things you should do and keep at it…be faithful at living well… because there is a faithful God behind the scenes Who will do all things well for you.
Paul’s prayer for the believers says it exactly right: “We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” (from Colossians 1:9-12, The Message)
As the stresses of the holidays begin to loom, and tired women begin to fray at the seams, we can ask for eyes to see God’s great faithfulness, to recognize His mercy and compassion “new every morning.” We can rest our hearts there, and then be faithful to serve our families, with all the extra cooking and traveling and decorating and shopping to make their holidays feel special and their hearts feel loved… yes, but more than that, with joyful hearts that seek the Lord and wait quietly for Him. He will not let us down.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty….He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:1,4)
“You were reaching through the storm,
Walking on the water —
Even when I could not see;
In the middle of it all,
When I thought You were a thousand miles away,
Not for a moment did You forsake me…
After all, You are constant;
After all, You are only good;
After all, You are sovereign;
Not for a moment will You forsake me… ”
(Not for a Moment, Meredith Andrews)