A few weeks ago I was asked the question, can you be faithful where you are? It got my mind churning. What does it mean to be faithful? How do you continue to be faithful when you no longer have the energy to do so? What if where you are is not where you want to be?
To be faithful is to be loyal, constant, and steadfast. It is to continue on, persevere, and keep going, especially when things get hard. Faithfulness is hard. I don’t think it is our natural inclination. Faithfulness by nature, requires discomfort.
Faithfulness has caused me to be uncomfortable. Trying to remain faithful has kept me up at night, it has pushed me to have difficult conversations, love people I don’t want to love, and pursue peace where there had previously been war.
Sticking it Out
There are two big lessons I have learned when it comes to being faithful: God is more faithful than I am and I can do hard things. These two lessons have carried me far in life, have brought me to where I am today, and undoubtedly will carry me the rest of my days.
Some of the most comforting words in scripture is God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5, Matt 28:20). The reason these words give me such rest is because they mean I am not alone. God is always with me. That means He is there at my highest highs and my lowest lows.
A few years ago I was wrestling through a decision about where I should move to and a friend said to me: “God has given you free will, trust that wherever you go, He will be there.” Upon hearing those words, it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I realized that more than just God being with me wherever I was, He was also able to sustain me in those places.
Some of us are wrestling with very difficult things right now, anxiety, depression, secret sin, unhappy marriages, death, pain, sickness, the list goes on and on. It can be hard to know what it means to be faithful in the midst of some of these things. The beauty of God being with you in the midst of these things is that He is living right inside of you. When we put our hope in Jesus we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. He works in us, through us, and around us to make us look more like Jesus. Our faithfulness does not come in our own strength but in His.
This leads to my second lesson, you can do hard things. We all desire comfort and ease and if given the opportunity, we shy away from the hard things in life. But being stuck in a difficult situation and having to rely on the Holy Spirit will teach you a lot of lessons. The biggest and most important one is that you cannot tackle life on your own. You are simply not strong enough, wise enough, fast enough, and whatever else you think you are that will qualify you to be your own savior.
When we rely on the Holy Spirit though, we are able to face the trials of life. It is in those moments when our backs are against the wall, when we are faced with difficult decisions, when it seems as if there is no way out, it is in those moments, our true selves come out. Is it the self saving self or is it the self being transformed by the Holy Spirit? The Spirit will push us to do things we’ve never done before, say no things we previously could not say no to, and stand in moments where previously we would have fallen. That is the power of the God that dwells within you.
Don't Avoid Suffering
Our aversion to suffering and pain does us more harm than good. We think by minimizing risk and avoiding pain we are making our lives better but in truth, quite possibly, we are making them worse. If your whole life is one of comfort and ease then you have no true appreciation for pain. It keeps you from empathizing with those who are truly suffering. When you live a life of perfectly manufactured comfort, avoiding all of the danger zones as much as possible, you can look down on the suffering of others. It leads to this sort of self-righteousness that says, “I was able to protect myself from that, you should have too.”
A lack of suffering also leads to a lack of growth. Pain and suffering are often opportunities to stretch ourselves. It’s the difference between being a practice player and actually getting in the game. You can make a thousand buzzer beater shots against an imaginary clock in practice but you won’t know if you truly have it until you’re staring a defender in the face, the crowd is deafening, and there really is only one second left. Too much comfort can keep you from seeing what you’re truly made of.
Quitting is OK
One key element of faithfulness is knowing that quitting is ok. We only have so much bandwidth. We only have so much energy, and we can only take so much abuse. Sometimes you have to be strong enough to walk away. That raises the very valid question of when but I believe that is to be determined by each individual specific to their situation and where they feel God has lead them.
Quitting is not always a loss. Every situation hopefully brings us some valuable insight and lessons learned. Sometimes, the strongest and most beneficial thing you can do, is walk away. Don’t let anyone guilt you into staying or try to bribe you, sometimes enough is enough, and that is ok.
There is much joy to be had in being faithful. I believe there is so much God can do and teach us in the midst of our faithfulness, whether that be to a tiring ministry, a disgruntled spouse, a church that just doesn’t get it, or simply to God himself. Preserving through the hard times teaches us what it means to truly lean on God and opens up a level of strength and fortitude inside of us we didn’t know we had.
What is keeping you from being faithful? Who or what else is fighting for your love and loyalty? We are not going to be able to live out the call to faithfulness on our own, it just isn’t possible. That is the reason the end of Romans 7 into Romans 8 is so beautiful. Paul talks about doing all these things he doesn’t want to do and not doing the things he does want to do (we all know this feeling). This prompts him to ask the question: who can save me from this body of death? Like a knight in shining armor, comes Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives within you, let Him show you what it means to follow the Most Faithful One. May we learn this truth today.