Recently I had the privilege of witnessing my second oldest sister exchange marriage vows with the man who had been courting her for the last 3 years. As I sat and looked at the procession, the respective parts as they seamlessly came together, and the major part- the wedding vows, the laughs, the jokes, the song selections and a sense of pomp and exuberance brought the whole ceremony to a crescendo.
It was at that moment that it made me think-and I am sure the blushing couple as well- about the power of a promise. So much hung on promises made that day: the sense of duty, challenge to love unconditionally, the call to sacrifice for the beloved and most importantly to do this to the glory of God.
As I thought through the significance of the occasion, I recalled a common sentiment I heard growing up, “A promise is a comfort to a fool”. I remember how much this sentiment framed the thinking of others and created a sense of doubt in embracing promises. To some, even on the occasion of marriage, vows and promises were good but taken with a hint of scepticism. We still give promises, but not much comfort is sought in them.
I would like to share with you a couple reasons why I believe a promise should still offer us a sense of comfort.
Firstly some promises can prove to be misplaced but not all. I believe it simply depends ultimately on where and in whom we place our trust to fulfil these promises. If our trust is put completely in man, we will face disappointment since circumstances can causes promises to not be met. If our trust is beyond man ultimately and in God, I believe we are able to find comfort in promises that can never fail. Of himself He says in 2 Timothy, “If we are faithless He remains faithful for He cannot disown Himself”. Essentially, the passage exalts God’s faithfulness regardless of man. This is who He is. This is extremely encouraging, because that means He can always be trusted.
One author puts it this way in the book ‘What women really need’, “This means I can enjoy the best of this world without clinging too tightly too it, because my security is found in a relationship with my Maker instead of the things He has made. He helps me to hold them lightly....This means I can face the worst of this world without despair because I know this is not as good as it gets. My real home is yet to come”. My trust in God and who He is makes me able to live freely in this world, not shackled to disappointment or imprisoned by fear of the same. It makes me able to trust graciously knowing where I ultimately find my comfort.
Secondly promises help to spark hope and offer comfort. Promises help to keep our eyes fixed on “what should be” rather on “what is”. Romans 15 verse 4 tells us that, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”. The scriptures remind us of what has happened to encourage us to trust in what can happen. In the early church during the persecutions John Foxe contrasted the difference between a pagan head stone and one of a Christian in a cemetery. In his book ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs, he says:
“Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace. Lawrence to his sweetest son, borne away of angels. Victorious in peace and in Christ. Being called away, he went in peace. Remember when reading these inscriptions the story the skeletons tell of persecution, of torture, and of fire. But the full force of these epitaphs is seen when we contrast them with the pagan epitaphs, such as: Live for the present hour, since we are sure of nothing else. I lift my hands against the gods who took me away at the age of twenty though I had done no harm. Once I was not. Now I am not. I know nothing about it, and it is no concern of mine.Traveler, curse me not as you pass, for I am in darkness and cannot answer."
God has so redeemed man, not just from sin but also in order that in this world he can bring or be a vehicle for redemption. One of those vehicles is that in the midst of broken promises bringing discomfort because people just don’t value committing to their word, we ought to point people not just to the One who can be trusted. We are also to be people who bring comfort by being people who keep promises. When we say yes it should mean yes and our no mean no according to James 5 verse 12. I know that in a world where broken promises have left some doubtful about trust, we can still look to God whose promises are meant to be a comfort. In the Novel ‘Don Quixote’ the author Miguel De Cervantes speaks of supreme madness this way “to see life as it is and not as it should be”. It is madness to not hope. It is madness to not hope that promises can still offer comfort. I hope we find comfort in the true Promise giver.
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian apologist and he loves reading, especially topics like: History, Philosophy and Theology. You can follow him on twitter @VeritasDeiVinci
Paul Lewis' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/paul-lewis.html