Chapter 4

Without Fail

Like so many other longings and needs in our lives, the desire for perfection, whether in ourselves or in our circumstances, reminds us life here will always be a lesser reflection of the fully renewed and restored heaven and earth that will be accomplished when Christ returns. For the one who believes in Jesus, standing in His presence one day will be knowing complete satisfaction for the first time, like arriving at the end of a good story and getting to stay there. Until that time, though, we have to contend in practical ways with the gap between what we know could be and what is.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” The Greek word used in this verse is the word hypostasis, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains that it means “confidence, firm trust, assurance”. Having faith doesn’t mean we mentally grab hold of positive thoughts about what we hope life will be. Faith anchors in trust.

However, to simply trust in getting a desired result brings us back to self–reliance. If I put my faith in being perfect, happy, or fulfilled, then all of my efforts will go toward that end, and my thoughts begin to focus on the means by which I can make that happen. Here again, I would inevitably find myself grasping for control, working to be the maker of my own satisfaction in life. Faith, like trust, must be rooted in relationship, and genuine relationship with Christ is all about our being willing to give up control.

Faith, like trust, must be rooted in relationship, and genuine relationship with Christ is all about our being willing to give up control.

Thankfully, we’re not left to our own devices to figure it out. First Peter 1:21 tells us, “Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.” Trust isn’t about our emotions; it’s about our decisions, or rather our willingness to submit those emotions and decisions to someone more capable than ourselves. Do we believe not only that God exists but that His heart toward us is one of goodness? (Hebrews 11:6). Do I really believe that a relationship with Him is better than what this world offers as an answer for happiness? Do I really believe that a love relationship with Him can answer the times I experience unmet desires, insufficiency, or a lack of fulfillment with my life?

If we constantly measure our satisfaction with life in arrival points, we will neglect the beauty of the journey. If we run from our inadequacies, any ache of want, or absence of fulfillment, we lose the opportunity to understand the sufficiency of God’s presence (2 Corinthians 12:9). It’s here in this walk of faith that our reliance on human effort comes to die.

Self–reliance—whether it comes dressed in the pursuit of self–fulfillment or perfectionist standards—is contrary to the truth of the cross. Paul put it this way: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Trust is hard, especially when life aches. Our inner longings tell us there is more to answer our sense of satisfaction, but our physical realities don’t meet the expectation. It’s in these times that our definition of satisfaction becomes most visible.

We will never know true contentment until we know what it means to trust God’s love for us (see Philippians 4:11–13). Yes, first for salvation, but for our everyday life that follows as well. We will have days when our circumstances, or even our relationships, don’t feel satisfying. So what then?

Living by faith doesn’t mean we won’t experience emotions that highlight a sense of lack. Indeed, living in a broken world, we can expect our hearts to ache when things are not what they were meant to be. But in the midst of those emotions, we must allow the Holy Spirit to show us if we’re hoping for the wrong things. For the believer, all things begin and end with Christ. I have to be willing to ask myself if what I’m desiring makes my life more about Him or more about me.

To live by faith means we direct those longings toward the One who holds everything in existence, all the while trusting the goodness of His provision. It’s the practice of shifting our sense of satisfaction from what we desire to God Himself. When life feels like it’s falling way too short of perfect, we can choose where we direct our focus.

Here are some practical ways we make this shift in our hearts and minds.

First, we can look for goodness in the here and now, expecting to find it through His wisdom. Experiencing great distress in various seasons of his life, David learned to say, “Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). Key to David’s claim, however, was that the goodness he anticipated would be defined by God’s character and not by his own expectations.

Second, we can mark milestones of God’s faithfulness with our thankfulness. When God brings us satisfaction, either through His presence or His actions, we need to talk about it. Not only does it remind us that He is faithful, but it documents for others the visible proof that God is the one who brings us contentment (Isaiah 12:2–5). Testimony builds trust.

Third, we can remember that the greatest gift we have is relationship with Him, and everything else is a piece of the journey to know Him more. And, because He is with us, we can enjoy the process. Psalm 16:11 reminds us of this truth: “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

Life will press hard against us at times, whether in the pain we experience, the inadequacies we see in ourselves, or the moments that fall short of our expectations. The temptation to find contentment in the creation of our own hands will be real. But greater still is the hope we have in Christ. When we choose to remember, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22–23), we find a satisfaction that never leaves, a perfection that never falls short. Only the power of Christ can take what is hopelessly flawed and create something pure and complete.

The choice is ours. We can either allow our longing for perfect satisfaction to point us to Christ or to be a distraction disorienting us deeper into an obsession with self. One day, we will reach the end, to find it is only the beginning and that He has indeed made all things new (Revelation 21:5–6). Until that day—when all of the imperfections of this earth, including our human frailties—have been made new, we hope, resting in the goodness of a God who loves us without fail.