“It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night,” Psalm 92:1-2 [NASB]
The success of Walt Disney has safely proven most of us love knights in shining armor delivering damsels in distress, true love prevailing, good conquering evil, and fairy tale endings of happily ever after. We love stories of deliverance. In Christian circles some of the most repeated Biblical accounts are those of miraculous deliverance: Noah and the Ark, Abraham and Isaac, Daniel in the lions’ den, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, David and Goliath, and the list goes on.
Ten months ago a bus full of people were miraculously delivered, but our precious Sarah was not. We as her family were and are not delivered from enduring the earthly sting of her death. We did not get our fairy tale ending. It is incomprehensibly illogical, but there are still multiple moments every single day that I must convince myself she is actually gone. A mother’s heart is not wired to process that she will never touch or hold her child again, that she will never again hear their voice, laughter or singing. Each time the reality washes over me, it bears a sting similar to the first. In between those sharper stings of reality, the aching is constant. I bear an ever present longing for someone and something, and deliverance will not be granted this side of heaven.
In our prosperity gospel riddled culture there is a pervasive lie that God’s faithfulness always brings deliverance. It’s overtly seen in claims that God’s will is always to physically heal and provide financial wealth, but more insidiously in the belief that He will not allow us to suffer or hurt indefinitely. This is not a new belief though, we see it recorded in scripture when the disciples question Jesus about the man blind from birth, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Their wrong presumptions about God’s will regarding physical well being caused them to believe someone sinned to cause the suffering this man had endured since birth.
Praise God for the recorded Word of Christ Jesus refuting the false presumptions of the disciples, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). In this instance this man was allowed to suffer from birth through adulthood so that God would be glorified through His eventual healing. Some might argue that this account still fits within the belief that God’s will always includes temporal healing and deliverance. He did, after all, eventually deliver this man through healing. Thankfully we have the account of Paul and his thorn as well. We know from scripture that Paul pleaded for healing or deliverance from the thorn but it was not granted. Paul accepted that He was not to be delivered, and he affirmed the choice of God, saying, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
As I was struggling with the deep discouragement of desperately missing Sarah earlier this week, I once again went to the Psalms for comfort and encouragement. It was not a Psalm of lament that captivated my heart, though. Instead it was a Psalm of Thanksgiving, Psalm 92. Verse 1-2 instantly resonated within my broken heart, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night”.
In scripture, morning is sometimes associated with times of ease or blessing and night with times of hardship and difficulty. Through the shadow of death nighttime has fallen on our family, but like the Psalmist we can still declare His faithfulness. He did not deliver Sarah from death, and He will not deliver us from the pain of her absence this side of heaven, but He has been, is and will continue to be faithful.
God’s faithfulness and our faith do not guarantee our deliverance. Likewise, ongoing pain and lack of deliverance do not indicate a lack of faithfulness on God’s part or lack of faith on ours. God does not miraculously numb grieving parents to the pain of the absence of their children. Those who have journeyed far longer than I without their children testify the pain and longing never fully subside. However, they and I can also testify that His faithfulness is beautifully displayed as He miraculously and faithfully sustains us in the midst of the pain and longing. It is His faithfulness that strengthens us to persevere and endure (2 Thess. 3:3), and it is His faithfulness that restores the joy of our salvation even in the presence of our tears (Psalm 51:12). His faithfulness empowers our faith.
God’s promised faithfulness is not a promise to spare us from that which we dread, it is a promise to faithfully walk with us and sustain us should that which we dread become our reality. Stephen, the first martyr, was not granted deliverance but instead a brutal death by stoning. In Stephen’s final earthly moments God demonstrated His faithfulness as He revealed Himself in His glory to Stephen. As Stephen’s life was being poured out through the blows of the rocks, he also saw His ever faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, looking upon Him from the right hand of God, no longer seated but standing (Acts 7:55-56). Great is His faithfulness.
He is faithful. When He delivers, He is faithful. When He doesn’t deliver, He is faithful. He is faithful in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). He who is faithful weeps with us (John 11:33). He collects our tears and takes account of each one (Psalm 56:8). He gives us His song in the night, and He sings over us (Psalm 42:8; Zeph. 3:17). He pours out His new mercies for us each morning (Lam. 3:22). He upholds us by His righteous right hand (Isa. 41:10). His faithfulness persists no matter how desolate or dire our circumstances may be (Psalm 46:1-3). Because of His faithfulness my broken heart sings (Psalm 57:7).
“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 [ESV]
I can not conclude without recounting the greatest story of deliverance ever. That of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, offering to all mankind deliverance from the captivity of sin and death. Though we will not all receive the temporal deliverance we desire this side of heaven, all we who follow Christ will ultimately be eternally delivered. Armed with this Hope, I will continue to give thanks and declare His faithfulness in the night as I eagerly anticipate the deliverance of that glorious reunion day morning when the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings, making all things new.
“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” Malachi 4:2 [NASB]
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:3-5 [NASB]
Artwork: Sarah Harmening