The Nature of Faithfulness

Recently I’ve been watching Alias, and I’ve noticed something, but in case you’re not familiar with the show, its about spies and the CIA and random other made-up networks of black-ops agents.  Its rather ridiculous but quite entertaining. Sydney Bristow is the main character, this awesome spy, and her dad, Jack, is another main character. So Sydney comes across some info that seems to implicate her father…and she responds as she always does, gets super upset, won’t listen to him, and is all like how could you have done this, can’t believe you’re my father, will never trust you again, so on. Jack kind of frowns, like usual, says something like Sydney, I know you don’t understand, but…as she storms off and refuses to listen. This has happened at least five times so far, first she didn’t know he was a double agent, thought he had killed her fiance, thought he worked for the KGB, etc, and every single time he is cleared of all suspicion and is always working for her best interest.  Often, even while she’s refusing to talk to him, he swoops in at the nick of time to extract her from a mission gone wrong, and always comes through in the end, always, every time. But the next time the slightest thing comes up that puts him in a negative light, she never gives him the slightest benefit of the doubt, thinks, hm the last five times I’ve assumed this I’ve been wrong, and he’s always been reliable and trustworthy…no, instead:I can’t believe he would do that! Betrayed by my own father! Crazy evil liar, get away from me… Most of the time he actually has evidence that would clear him from suspicion, but doesn’t tell her so that he doesn’t hurt her feelings, let her know that someone else betrayed her, her mom is a murderer, so on. So he just takes the blame, goes on with his missions, and then saves her from all the trouble she gets into.

This behavior often appears irrational to me. I keep thinking, seriously, you think he betrayed you, on some flimsy piece of evidence, when he never actually has! So far you’ve always been wrong….he’s always been right…Doesn’t that earn him some trust?? But the funny thing is that I do the same thing…in my life, I’ve always seen God as being reliable for me, He has always provided. Yet often, when some new situation comes up, I feel like, ok, sure You’ve always been there before, and have all power in the universe and all that, but this time, really, its just too much…this time you won’t come through. When my girlfriend broke up with me in college I tried to see something good in that situation…but I didn’t. Now I do…but it took a few years, and many other times that I’ve felt stuck, or lost, or confused, I feel like God has abandoned me. But I’ve always been wrong…

I think the single most influential message I’ve ever heard was an Easter chapel at Wheaton, about the words of Christ on the cross: אלי אלי למה עזבתני My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? — straight from the words of David in Psalm 22. Now I’m not going to get into this whole topic here, and some would disagree with this, but its important to remember that the Jews had a very strong oral tradition. Most people didn’t own books, most people couldn’t read, but they did memorize stuff.  They would memorize the prayers, stories, folk-lore, all kinds of stuff, and especially the Psalms. So when Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, a devout Jew hearing him would probably be reminded of the entire Psalm. This Psalm has clear messianic elements, and starts off very sorrowful, asking God, why are you so far away (22:1)? Why don’t you answer (2)?

The next few verses allude to God’s history of being fully trustworthy:

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (NIV)

God has always been reliable! But the psalmist doesn’t feel so great, feels like a worm, not a man (6). His enemies are surrounding him, and he is totally spent (14). But God is still faithful! This is how the Psalm concludes:

23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it! (NIV)

These words of Jesus at the cross do not signal that the unity of the Triune God has finally dissolved amid the wreckage of a mission gone terrible wrong. They do not signal that God the father had lost interest and wandered off somewhere, or, feeling emotionally handicapped, he had to ‘turn his face away’, couldn’t bear to watch (that’s only a song, not in the Bible!). No…I believe He was always there. Now that doesn’t change the feeling of desperation that we feel, that I’ve felt, and that Jesus felt. I’m sure He felt forsaken. But He also knew it wasn’t true…and that God promised:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut 31:6, repeated again in 31:8

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. Psalm 37:25

For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. Psalm 94:14

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

How many times does it have to be repeated?! How many instances of faithfulness do we need to see, in history, in the lives of our friends, in our life? When you feel that God has forsaken you…you’re not the first. But don’t believe it! Remember these promises. Remember all the instances where God has proven Himself faithful. Remember the final words of Psalm 22: He has done it. The victory is already accomplished…and not only that, but God will continue to provide in every situation, big or small. Because that is the nature of faithfulness.

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