Promises, Promises

by Shea Oakley

God does not ever break His promises, but He does allow circumstances in the lives of His children that tempt us to think He does.

We mistake experiences of loss and unfulfilled desire for evidence God is not trustworthy. However the promises we sometimes feel like He has broken were not promises He ever made in the first place.

Many believers remain under the illusion that God has pledged that life here is meant to be free of significant and lasting pain. We somehow get the idea that the "trials and tribulations" the Bible talks about are for someone else; or if they really are to be a part of our experience they should be minor and short-lived. Both of these self-deceptions can come back to haunt us when we inevitably feel the full-force of the adversity that cannot be avoided if we live very long in this profoundly fallen world. If we hold on to them after that adversity enters our lives, we are on a certain road to bitterness because we cannot accept the good that God may cause to come out of our pain if we persist in thinking we should be exempt from that pain.

Commonly included within the concept of "little or no pain" are any number of more specific "promises" that God has never made to Christians. He has not promised all of us excessive material wealth, for instance, or that we will have a spouse. God also does not vow that we will be perfectly healthy physically throughout our time here or completely fulfilled in all our interpersonal relationships. We may have some of these things if they are part of His will for our lives, but His will and our will are not always the same. Those who try to interpret Scripture to defend the notion that these things are somehow the birthright of every "truly faithful" believer are not reading their "proof texts" in the context of other passages in the Bible that say something different. They are leaving out very explicit verses about pain and loss being the lot of all human beings in this life, including Christians.

Actually the truly faithful and favored children of God are likely to experience more discomfort in their sojourn here on Earth, not less. If we are uncompromising witnesses of Christ in everyday life we will suffer the angry retribution of both Satan and those under his sway. The suffering of holy men is well documented in the Bible. Some, in fact lost the very things some say God permanently promises us-like possessions and loved ones-because of their commitment to the Lord.

The real and precious promise that God has made to His children is that He will see them through their affliction, use that affliction to make them more Christlike, and eventually deliver them from all affliction in the world that is to come. We are often on theologically thin ice when we assume He has made promises unrelated to this core promise. We are on even thinner ice when we let unfulfilled expectations based on faulty assumptions sway us into thinking God is not worthy of our complete trust.

God absolutely keeps His promises. He does not, however, keep promises He never made to begin with.

Copyright 2007 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved

Shea has written for a number of Christian Web magazines.
He makes his home in West Milford, New Jersey.

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