Saturday, July 31, 2021

Faithful in Every Fearful Change

Faithful in Every Fearful Change

The changes of the last year rattled the world. For some of us, the months inflicted grief and loss, crippling illness, and goodbyes voiced over digital screens. For others, hard-won businesses crumbled, and with them, long-treasured hopes. Even for those of us privileged to keep our health and livelihoods, routines morphed beyond recognition, as kids traded classrooms for screens, and holiday bustle for empty tables. Even passing the peace, once a touching reminder of Christ’s love, evolved into socially distanced hand waves, six feet apart, with only a glance above a mask hinting at our reason to hope.

It’s easy to feel adrift after such a tumultuous year. And yet, even in pandemic-free times, life still thrusts unwelcome changes upon us. Our kids grow up and leave home. Our bodies sag and crease. Illnesses stir up fears, and losses leave us bereft. The pressures of work and family prod us on, and suddenly we glance in the mirror, don’t recognize ourselves, and wonder how life managed to barrel past us, leaving us stooped and broken in its wake.

We long for the moments of yesterday, but no matter how fervently we cling to our memories, the edges of the photographs curl, the colors yellow, and the lines fade. Time grinds on, leaving us bent, altered, and in the worst moments, grieving the parts of ourselves we’ve lost. How do we weather such moments? How do we remain steadfast when life, by nature, seems so inconstant and so impervious to our yearning to be still?

In Every Change

In her beautiful verses penned in the 1750s, hymnwriter Katharina von Schlegel offers us a glimmer of hope when the winds of change threaten to cripple us:

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.

When everything seems uncertain, and nothing constant, when every foundation we lean upon seems to shift and crack, we can still rely upon our true rock, the immovable One, who remains faithful in every change. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress,” writes King David, “my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). While we can depend on little in this sin-stricken world, we can always, now and forever, rely upon our God, our rock, our redeemer, and our refuge.

His Faithfulness Remains

The Old Testament reveals that the hearts of God’s people have always been fickle and untrustworthy, corrupted in sin and prone to idolatry. Yet when humankind has failed, God’s faithfulness has prevailed. While “we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6), the Lord’s faithfulness has never faltered, and “endures to all generations” (Psalm 119:90).

When Adam and Eve pitched all mankind into depravity, God expelled them from the garden, but not before he lovingly clothed them and promised to defeat the serpent through Christ (Genesis 3:15, 21). Night and day he “did not depart from before the people” during the exodus (Exodus 13:22). When generations of his people rebelled and sank into idolatry, inviting wrath upon themselves through the Babylonian siege, he preserved a remnant of his people, upholding his covenant with David (Isaiah 10:20–21; 2 Samuel 7:16). And when we were dead in our sins and trespasses, in his abounding faithfulness, he made us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1–5).

For many, the past year has shattered the notion that we can control our circumstances. Changes have steamrolled us, whether we welcomed them or not. While we cling to a sense of constancy, with heavy hearts we realize that we can’t depend on the wind or the rain, or even on our own heartbeat to continue its cadence. We can, however, count on God’s faithfulness, his word, and the integrity of his promises.

As the prophet Isaiah tells us, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8). And God’s word to us, his sweet promise that remains true whatever changes may batter us, is that whoever believes in his Son has eternal life (John 5:24).

His Mercy Remains

In the sixth century BC, the prophet Jeremiah, his warnings of God’s impending judgment long unheeded, lamented the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. As he poured out his anguish, he turned, in a remarkable expression of faith, to remembrance of God’s boundless mercy:

But this I call to mind,
     and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
     his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
     great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21–23)

While mankind had failed, and all was in ruin, God remained merciful. The dust settled upon the rubble of Jerusalem, and his mercies dawned anew, beginning with a remnant of his people he saved to restore what had disintegrated. This redemption eventually culminated in a plan of redemption for all mankind, through Christ.

The same mercy that prompted Jeremiah to praise persists even now. While changes drive us to our knees, God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and so the mercy and compassion with which he has lavished mankind for centuries still flows down upon us. Catastrophe may strike us. The edifices of our lives may crumble to rubble. But, in his mercy, he engages with all these calamities for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Pandemics and illness and loss afflict us, but the dust will settle, the Son will return, and his mercies, new every morning, will never come to an end.

His Love Remains

The Bible tells us 26 times that God’s “steadfast love endures forever.” We see echoes of this perpetual love in his provision for his people during the exodus, as he led them out of bondage (Exodus 14), provided food from heaven (Exodus 16), and quenched their thirst from a rock (Exodus 17). We also witness it, in exquisite brushstrokes, at the cross: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Father has shared a covenantal, eternal, abiding love with the Son since before the world began, and he now pours that love out upon us, through Christ. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us,” John exclaims, “that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). Thanks be to God, nothing — not life nor death, nor a diagnosis, nor a failed contract, nor an estranged relationship, nor the withering of our own aging bodies, nor a global pandemic — can wrench us from his love (Romans 8:38–39).

The world changes daily. Our bodies decay. Dreams blow apart like dead leaves in the wind. Even the heavens and the earth will wear out. But thanks be to God, his love does not change. His mercies never come to an end. And Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith, “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).



from Desiring God http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/14660041/faithful-in-every-fearful-change
via DG