Sometimes I imagine a congress of the faithful calling God to a confirmation hearing and starting the questions with: Will you be faithful to your promises? We sing from time to time, “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with thee; / thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.” But there seems to be evidence to the contrary.
So much needs to be set right in our world, in our lives. You know the list; there’s no need to repeat it. We preach patience as we wait for the right things to happen according to God’s time, not ours: waiting in traffic; waiting on the edge of the chair for the lab report; waiting with foreboding for the morning headlines or the evening news. Our scriptures say good comes to those who wait for God, to the soul that seeks God (Lam. 3:25).
But time’s wasting, our lives are wasting away, and we’re still waiting for those good things. We know why the psalmist would ask, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me” (Ps. 13:1)? We know why Habakkuk would ask, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save me” (Hab. 1:2)?
It’s a reasonable question, given the state of our world and the burdens we bear in life. We hear God is “the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). Has the thousand-and-first generation come and gone, and have we passed the expiration date for God’s faithfulness? These are reasonable questions.
Of course, reason has nothing to do with it. The moment we put our reasonable questions to God, we hear the reply Job heard: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:2-4). And despite all the good things history and science and our own experience have taught us, we realize we speak without knowledge about things we don’t understand (Job 42:3).
One of the essential assurances of scripture and the long tradition of our faith is that God is faithful, profoundly so. God’s face is not hidden from us; it is our blindness that prevents our seeing it. It is our muddled mind that looks God in the face and sees only the ordinary stuff of this world, only the ordinary person we pass in the street. It’s not God who forgets the covenant that binds us to the Divine; it’s we who forget and turn aside.
Luke assures us that God has given us our places in life so that we would search for God and perhaps grope for God and find God, for it’s in God that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:26-28). We never need to ask for God’s presence; God is always present, and our whole existence is in God. We need to ask only for awareness of God’s presence.
And God has placed us exactly where we are in life so that we may seek and find an awareness of this ever-present God. God has given us this emptiness we feel, what Augustine called this God-shaped hole in the center of our lives, so we will seek to fill it with God. It’s our unabated yearning for God that is our God-given connection with God. It’s our constant hunger for God that is evidence of God’s constant faithfulness.
Fred Rogers – we know him as his TV persona, Mr. Rogers – wrote about how to help children deal with scary things in life. They’re good words for us adults, too. “When I was a boy,” he wrote, “and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
When life is scary and uncertain, and you wonder if God is faithful to the promise of more and better life than we ever dreamed of (John 10:10 The Message), look within. Look first into your own heart for signs of your faithfulness to life’s highest, life-shaping values. And look for the helpers around you, those people who also are faithful, sometimes in very small ways, to life’s highest values. Like our inner yearning for God, those small expressions of our faithfulness to God are the evidence of God’s faithfulness to us.
This faithful God of ours has not absconded, as we might suppose. God is difficult to find because God is so close, hidden in plain sight. If you want to find God, lower your sights and look close at hand. If you want assurance that God is faithful, look for where God’s faithfulness is already being expressed in your faithfulness to the best life and you have to offer.