On the day before Valentine’s Day, I questioned if God was faithful for what felt like the silliest, most insignificant reason. I was making—trying to make—a pavlova (a large meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit) for a church party. I had a big plan to shape it like a heart and top it with strawberries. But I did something wrong, and my egg whites wouldn’t turn into peaks. No matter what ingenious cure-all Google suggested, nothing worked.
As I stared at my mixer spinning hopelessly, I thought about how easy it would have been for God to just fix it. I was already on edge because of a lot of uncertainty and sorrow at work (I work for a Christian ministry currently in crisis), and the failed meringue seemed like one more unanswered prayer. It ended up being my breaking point. Within a few minutes, I was weeping in my kitchen over soupy egg whites, my work, and what felt like God’s oppressive silence through it all. Is God faithful, even here? I thought.
If God is truly faithful, and I can know that he is faithful, then my unanswered prayers and questions are bearable. I do not have to understand why God did not fix my meringue if I know that he is a good God who cares about me. If I remember this, I can see my disappointments—great and small—as part of living in a broken world that God is in the process of redeeming. God’s faithfulness becomes an anchor in the midst of ever-changing circumstances, instead of my circumstances validating what I believe about God.
So is God faithful, even here? And if he is, how can I stir my heart, which always seems to lag behind my mind, to believe?
As I looked for examples of people who had faith even in the hard in-between, I was heartened by this story of George Müller, a missionary and Evangelist to England in the nineteenth century:
One morning, all the plates and cups and bowls on the table [in the orphanage dining room] were empty. There was no food in the larder and no money to buy food. The children were standing, waiting for their morning meal, when Müller said, “Children, you know we must be [on] time for school.” Then lifting up his hands he prayed, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.”
There was a knock at the door. The baker stood there, and said, “Mr. Müller, I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, and the Lord wanted me to send you some. So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some fresh bread, and have brought it.”
Mr. Müller thanked the baker, and no sooner had he left, when there was a second knock at the door. It was the milkman. He announced that his milk cart had broken down right in front of the orphanage, and he would like to give the children his cans of fresh milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it.
Abigail Townsend Luff, A Modern Romance of Faith: The Adventures of Sister Abigail
George Müller thanked God for the food that God had not yet provided. This might bring to mind the definition of faith in Hebrews:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Müller had faith that God would provide, and he acted on this expected provision before it came to pass. It did not matter that even as he prayed, he did not yet know from where their breakfast would come. And yet, I wonder if George Müller was surprised when he heard a knock on the door.
Like George Müller at the beginning of that breakfast, in the past few weeks and especially in my kitchen that evening, I have felt like I am facing empty plates and cups and bowls. In this time of pandemic, national unrest, and, in short, sorrow upon sorrow, I know that I am not alone.
And, again, as it was for George Müller, there is a decision us to make in this hard in-between: Will we thank God for supplying all of our needs and fulfilling his purpose for us, as scripture tells us he will, even before we see these things come to pass? Will we answer with believing hearts the question, “Is God faithful, even here?” Can we, as Dr. John Snyder, a contemporary pastor, has written, “refuse to live upon the apparent and make our choices based upon the true?” (John Snyder, The Weight of Majesty).
In the Bible we see many examples of people doing exactly that, clinging to faith in hard times, in the in-between. The Centurian says that Jesus’s words alone can heal his ailing servant, which prompts Jesus to marvel at his faith. There are the Hall of Famers of faith recorded in Hebrews,
[P]eople who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight…
This is great faith, and it is what we aspire to.
But to be honest, it is not where I have been this season. The thought of putting a foreign army to flight through my faith seems absurd when it feels like the battles of fear and worry in my own mind are barely under control. Instead of George Müller or the faith Hall-of-Famers, I’ve been a lot more like the disciples in a sinking boat in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee, frustrated with Jesus because he’s decided that it’s a prime time take a nap.
God is faithful in the midst of storms
The disciples knew what it was like to feel as though Jesus didn’t care about them. We read in Matthew 8:23-27:
Then [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
The disciples are afraid for their lives in the storm. To make matters worse, the only one who might be able to do something about it could not seem to be more apathetic: He’s taking a nap.
When Jesus wakes up, we see that he is concerned—but not about what we might expect. While he is still lying down—he hasn’t even gotten up yet—he says to the disciples, possibly over the roar of wind and waves: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Jesus’s priority was not calming the storm—it’s addressing the disciples’ fear, which was grounded in a lack of faith—Jesus literally calls them “you of little faith.” Matthew Henry describes Jesus’s response this way:
He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears.
Matthew Henry, Bible Commentary
Jesus knows that faith in him opens up peace—to the ability to literally sleep during a storm—and seeing the disciples desperate and overwhelmed by fear grieves him. He opens their eyes to a greater peril than a sinking boat: a lack of faith.
And then, as if to prove that there was never any reason for fear, Jesus finally stands and calms the storm. The storm never phased him; it’s as if he calms it in an afterthought. As Charles Spurgeon writes,
Everything is easy to omnipotence…There is not much difference, after all, in our littles and our greats to the infinite mind of our glorious God.
Charles Spurgeon, “Strong Faith in a Faithful God”
Being faithful is not a chore for Jesus. It is easy; calming that storm was no more work for God than bringing the whole universe into existence was. There is no such thing as a storm too big for God to intervene. He has the power to do anything at any time; we can trust that his omnipotence is always in service of his faithfulness.
But the reality, as we see here, is that storms still come. God allows storms to come, and sometimes it seems like he is sleeping in the midst of them. But do not mistake his sleeping for apathy: instead, see it as an invitation to rest with him, knowing that he cares for us. His invitation is not always to the other side of the storm. Sometimes it is to come to him and rest in the middle of it.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way:
You may not have a full explanation…but you will know for certain that God is not unconcerned. That is impossible. The One who has done the greatest thing of all for you, must be concerned about you in everything, and though the clouds are thick and you cannot see His face, know He is there…
Martyn Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression
God is faithful, and he makes us like himself
Six chapters later in the book of Matthew, we have another similar account. The disciples are in another storm and they see Jesus walking on the water, and Peter says,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
In the second account, Peter sees Jesus in the midst of a storm, and he wants to be as close as possible to him, even if it’s in the middle of a raging sea. The nearness of God was his good, as the Psalmist writes (Psalm 73:28).
While Peter is looking at Jesus, he is able to step out of the boat and walk on water, just like Jesus. This is a very literal image of John 14:12, where Jesus tells the disciples: “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…”
When we look to Christ, we are filled with faith because we are reminded of who he is, and this faith makes us like Jesus. We remember that he is faithful and good and powerful. As we behold Christ, even in the midst of our storms, Christ is in the process of being formed in us, as Paul writes in Galatians 4:19. He is the source and foundation of our faith, and he makes us like him. As Charles Spurgeon writes:
What Jesus was doing, Peter was doing. Faith made Peter to be like his Lord. There were two walking, the one by His own infinite power, the other by the power imparted to him—the power of faith…
Charles Spurgeon, “Peter Walking on the Sea”
But the opposite is also true. When we take our eyes off of Jesus, our faith in him falters. When Peter looks at the waves around him, nothing about his outside environment has changed. The sea was stormy before he stepped out of the boat. However, his internal posture changed. When he looks at the waves instead of Jesus, he no longer is like Jesus: instead of standing on the water, he begins to sink into it. The world cannot fill us with faith because nothing it offers lasts; in the end, everything good the world offers ends in uncertainty and insecurity. Our better—and our only—hope is in Jesus.
Like Peter, when we are in a storm, we have two things to look at: the waves or Jesus. We cannot look at both; we have to make a decision. When we focus on Jesus, reminding ourselves of the truths that ungird our reality regardless of how uncertain everything appears, we will have faith in him, and we will become like him.
God is faithful when we have little faith
In both of these accounts, we see faith faltering. The disciples lost faith in the midst of the storm. Peter lost faith in the midst of walking on water. And then both of them did the same thing: They cried out to Jesus. The little faith they had was enough to make them come to Jesus.
And so we see something remarkable about even our little faith: It is enough. Jesus calms the storm; he pulls Peter from the water. Without hesitation, he saves those who had only a little bit of faith—Jesus saves those he calls ὀλιγόπιστοι [little faith]. As Spurgeon has written,
Your faith may not always make you rejoice, but if your faith can always make you trust the precious blood, that is all you need.
Charles Spurgeon, “Peter Walking on the Sea”
In the past weeks and months, I have struggled to believe in God’s goodness and his care for me. But by God’s grace, I did have enough faith to cry out to Jesus. If you are in the same place, muster up all your strength, and utter his name. If waves are rocking our boat, we may as well at least wake Jesus up. Let us muster up all our strength, however pitiful it is, and call to him. Jesus is so faithful and so good that he responds to our poor, small, and incomplete faith. He is that faithful.
Evidence of God’s faithfulness
God promised long ago that sin and death would one day be no more. When Adam and Eve first sinned against God, breaking humanity’s communion with him, God cast them out of the garden—but not before promising the future defeat of sin itself. As God said to the serpent who deceived Eve into sinning, in the protoevangelium (the first instance of the gospel):
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
God says the serpent’s head will be bruised—it will be defeated. This was a promise not only to the serpent but also to Adam and Eve. Even as they turned their backs on the Garden of Eden, they knew that the one who had deceived them would one day be defeated. Sin and death would one day be no more.
We see the fulfillment of this ancient record of the gospel in the life and death of Jesus, whose purpose was to destroy the serpent and all it stood for (Romans 16:20, Hebrews 2:41-15, 1 John 3:8). Jesus died—the offspring of Adam’s heel was, indeed, bruised—but then he rose from the grave, defeating death and sin forever (Romans 6:8-11).
Nowhere do we see God’s faithfulness contrasted with our faithlessness more sharply than at the cross, where Jesus took on our sins and became like us so that one day, we could become like him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’s blood cries out God’s faithfulness for all eternity; it is the final proof of his goodness and care for us.
There will never be better proof of God’s faithfulness than what happened 2,000 years ago. Everything that this world has to offer—a perfect pavlova, a great job, health, a good family—pales in comparison to Calvary. Every sorrow that this world brings—a failed pavlova, a crisis in a Christian ministry, sickness and disease, broken relationships—pales in comparison to the sorrow of being out of communion with God.
Calvary is the single greatest testament to the faithfulness of God. We do not need to look at our own lives to know that God is faithful; we have long had enough evidence already. Martyn Lloyd Jones puts it this way:
The incarnation is the supreme example of fulfilled prophecy, the supreme example of God’s faithfulness to his promises….What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do.
Martyn Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression
Resting in God’s Promises
And what has God promised to do? We know…
- …for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
- …blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
- …according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13
- …the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:3-4
We can live in these promises today because we have proof of God’s faithfulness in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do not have to be afraid because God works for the good in all things. Knowing that we receive the crown of life at the end of our trials helps us remain steadfast. We do not have to despair because we are going to live in a place where righteousness dwells. Our suffering and pain will one day end because God is going to wipe every tear from our eyes.
These promises are good because God is faithful. A storm does not threaten these realities about God; we can cling to them for our entire lives and through every bit of suffering, pain, and doubt. As Martyn Lloyd Jones writes,
Whatever your circumstances at this moment, bring all you know to be true of your relationship to God to bear upon it.
Martyn Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression
And the truth, even as I wept in my kitchen a few weeks ago, is that God has much more in store for George Müller’s orphans than fresh bread and milk for breakfast over 150 years ago. He has much more for me than a heart-shaped pavlova and much more for the people involved in the ministry I work for than the end of a crisis. If God can resurrect Jesus Christ from the grave, he can wipe every tear from my eyes. And not only is he able—he has promised that he will.
© Olivia Davis 2021, all rights reserved