I’ve seen the pictures and posts on social media. I’m sure you have, too. Engagement photos, birth announcements, job promotions, new homes, wedding pictures. Then, right there in the caption of the smiling photo: “God is so faithful!” We like to say how faithful God is when things go our way. We talk about how our good news is a story of God’s faithfulness.
And that is true. God is faithful—always. That is part of who He is. Every story of His people is a story of His faithfulness.
That’s just it. God is faithful when things go our way, when we get the promotion, when we get a ring, when our baby is born healthy, when the tests come back negative, and when we get the house we wanted. God is also faithful when things don’t go the way we think they should.
When I think about how often the Bible talks about God’s faithfulness—how He loves and forgives unconditionally, how He keeps all His promises, how He is Immanuel, with us—I can’t help but also think about all the times it must have been difficult for His people to believe that.
In Genesis 3, God promises Eve an offspring who will crush the serpent’s head. In Genesis 4, her first offspring murders her second. She died without seeing that promise fulfilled. Noah watched everyone in the world except for his family die in a flood. Then he watched it rain for 40 days. Abraham grew old waiting on God to keep His word. Jacob walked with a limp for years after wrestling with God. Joseph was sold into slavery, wrongly accused, and forgotten in prison. The Israelites toiled day after day enslaved to the Egyptians. Once they were freed, they wandered for 40 years in the desert. Ruth’s husband died, and she lived in poverty before marrying Boaz. David ran away, hiding in caves to spare his life before becoming king and committing adultery. The prophets told of the coming Messiah—One they never saw here on earth. Jeremiah wrote an entire book of laments. Then, there were four centuries of silence.
Finally, the One was born. The One who had been waited on since Genesis 3.
And He died and was in the grave for three dark days. He rose again, walked and talked with His followers, then left them with the promise made from the beginning—I will be with you. His followers were persecuted—hated, threatened, beaten, stoned, put in prison, and put to death. One lasted here on earth, exiled on an island, to write of the one day coming when “Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
In all of that, God was and is faithful. He is steadfast, never changing. He loves with an unending love. He fulfills His promises—every last one. He is a rock, an anchor, a foundation. He is the same yesterday, today, and always. That is what faithfulness is. That is who God is.
So when we post the picture of the kindness of God, the graciousness to give us exactly what we asked for, it is not wrong to say that He is faithful. He is. However, when we emphasize His faithfulness when things go our way, and only when things go our way, we’re training ourselves and others in a false theology. We’re sending the message that God’s faithfulness is conditional upon our circumstances. This way of speaking teaches that God is not necessarily faithful, or that we may not know if He is faithful when things are not going our way.
I’ve been there. At a time in my life when nothing was going according to any plan I had ever imagined, I was asked where I could see God’s faithfulness in my life at that moment. I was asked this after others shared that they saw God’s faithfulness in the way He orchestrated the events in their lives to line up with their plans. They had found a house right away. She was about to get married. He had gotten a new job. His family was thriving. Her health was improving.
I didn’t see God’s faithfulness in that time of my life because I didn’t know what to look for. My life didn’t look like theirs, so I did not have an answer. I didn’t know His faithfulness is often sweetest in the waiting, in the hard, in the things none of us hope to happen. During those times, we cling to the promises of His faithfulness. We cling to the God with us.
When we’re still waiting, when the ring finger remains empty, when the diagnosis means pain, when the job goes to someone else, when there’s no plus sign on the pregnancy test, when there’s an empty seat at our table, God is faithful. He is faithfully with us, to the end of the age.