Standing on God’s Promises
The Psalmist asked a question we all ask at some point in our lives. “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).
You’ve been there. We all have. The foundations of our lives are shaken and we wonder if there is a place to stand – a place that is solid, a place that will not collapse or give way.
You’ve been betrayed by someone you trusted. You’ve lost a job. The love of your life was taken from you and you feel alone. You made a moral mistake and you wonder if you can ever recover. Your child is destroying his life and he rejects everything you do to help him. You have fallen into a deep hole of depression.
Your life is crumbling. Nothing makes sense. The foundations are being shaken. Where can you stand – a place that is solid and unmoving? You’ve been there. Or you will be.
This is the way the Prophet Habakkuk felt. The evil were prospering while his people – God’s people – were suffering. And Habakkuk wanted an answer that made sense of what was senseless and confusing. “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1).
That’s what we often want when our lives are falling apart. An answer to our complaint. A word from God that answers the question “Why – why this, why me, why now?” If we just understood why, we think, we would find a place to stand and the strength to overcome.
But God rarely gives us a “why.” Instead, he almost always gives us a “what.” Instead of providing us with an answer that makes sense of our situation, God gives us a promise that provides power for our lives. A “why” does not create hope within us. But a promise does. A “why” that explains the reason we are where we are does not impart strength for what’s to come. Only a promise that is strong enough to stand upon can do that.
How does God respond to Habakkuk’s demand for an answer? He tells the prophet, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2.4) which, of course, begs the question, “What is faith?” Mark Twain stated that “faith is believing what you know ain’t so” – a sort of mental trick by which we fool ourselves into believing that the facts do not matter. But true faith does not believe the facts don’t matter.
True faith simply believes the facts are not final. There is a reality that is greater than what we can see and touch. There is a reality that is more real, more solid, and more sure than the ground beneath our feet. It is a reality on which we can stand when the foundations of our lives are being shaken. That reality is the promises of God.
Where Will You Stand?
When the winds come and the rain falls, we all look for a place to stand. Some turn to their wits, certain that their intellect will be sufficient to find a way forward. Others trust in their wealth, confident because of their finances they can withstand any storm. Still others look to their position of power, the charm of their personality, or the resourcefulness they have demonstrated in the past.
But then the doctor calls and says, “I’m sorry, it’s cancer and it’s advanced.” There’s a terrible accident and you are asked to identify a body. A child tells you that she hates you, she walks out of your life and months go by and you have no idea where she is or how she is or if she is. You see a text on your spouse’s phone and you realize your marriage has been a lie. You have everything the world says you should need to be happy, but there is an empty darkness in your soul that will not go away and you cry yourself to sleep at night.
How then shall you live? By wits, by wealth, by position or charm? You may survive that way. But you will not overcome that way; you will not thrive that way; you will not truly live that way.
God’s Promise That He is Always With You
Then, how? By the promises of God. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). “His grace will be sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Ask for wisdom and he will give it to you generously” (James 1:5). That’s how the people of God live – by faith in the goodness of God and the certainty of his promises.
My eleventh grade English teacher was a formative figure in my life. Mrs. Decker instilled in us a love for poetry, in particular American poetry. We were expected to identify lines from over 500 poems by author and title. It was a daunting task and a great gift.
One of my favorite poems was “The Marshes of Glynn” by Sydney Lanier. As a teenager, Lanier enlisted to fight in the Civil War. He was captured and incarcerated in a military prison in Maryland. While there he contracted tuberculosis which he knew would take his life. He died at the age of thirty-nine.
As the disease progressed, Lanier struggled. He was married with four children. The responsibility of providing for them was overwhelming. His world became dark and the ground beneath his feet was giving way.
Advised to seek a milder climate, Lanier traveled to Glynn County on the southern coast of Georgia. In “The Marshes of Glynn” he recounts the difficult reality of his life that has brought him to the marshes: “when length was fatigue, and when breadth was but bitterness sore, and when terror and shrinking and dreary unnamable pain drew over me …” Weary, bitter and afraid. That’s was the reality of Lanier’s life.
But then he describes a day spent observing the watery marshlands that seem to go on forever between the coastal islands of Glynn County and the Georgian mainland.
Away from everyone and alone with himself he views the calm majesty of the marshes and “somehow my soul seems suddenly free from the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin …” What has delivered him from the crushing weight of worry and despair?
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twixt the marsh and the skies:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:
Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within
The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.
What freed Lanier from his anguish and allowed him to live even though he knew that death was coming? Faith. The belief that God can be trusted. His promises are true. His word is sure.
You Can Always Stand Strong on God’s Promises
Storms will come and rains will fall. The waters will rise and our lives will be shaken. That is a reality for all of us. But there is a place to stand. There is a foundation that is sure. That foundation is the greatness of God and the promises he has given us. Whatever you are facing, God is greater. Whatever you fear, there is a promise you can trust. And whatever comes against you, by faith you can live the abundant life that is yours in Jesus Christ.
Need help transitioning away from your circumstances, feelings, and wisdom as indicators of your happiness? This is an excerpt from Unfailing: Standing Strong on God’s Promises in the Uncertainties of Life by Rob Renfroe.
Through this book, you can:
- Learn seven ways God will sustain you when life is hard
- Be encouraged to stand strong in the face of adversity
- Be challenged to understand your spiritual posture as one of victory
What will you build your life upon? In a world that Jesus promises will be full of trouble, where will you turn for the strength to overcome? The unfailing promises of a faithful God provide the strength we need to overcome the world and its trouble. Build your life upon these promises and though the rains come and the storms rage, you will never fall. Get Unfailing from our store here.