Of God: Abounding in Steadfast Love

May 1, 2007

So, in my “Of Man…” post, I explained how my pain and frustrations with a friend led me to a place of worship and gratitude.

This primarily happened in two ways:

Sufficient Grace, Patience , and Faithfulness.

As I struggle to choose rightly and keep my heart open, I find myself grateful for His leadership and the grace He has given to enable me to stand. It is a struggle, but I can succeed… because He has made a way. And I am thankful for His faithfulness. The fact that I can trust Him with my heart and simply rest in Him, rather than scramble to put up walls to try to defend myself. Resting in the Lord is a very peaceful place to be.

I love His mercy. I love the way that He gently leads me. Though I struggle, He is committed to working perfection in me.

Also, as I struggle to continue to choose love, I am awed by the way that He continually loves me in my worst moments of unfaithfulness and inconsistency. I am thankful for His patient love.

Contrast — His love is NOT wavering or inconsistent

The thing that was most moving my heart that night was the reality that He is abounding in steadfast love. He is not inconsistent. He does not offer love and then withdraw it. He does not show kindness one day and then suddenly turn.

This is one of the things that the Lord declares of Himself when He speaks to Moses in Exodus 34. “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Abounding in steadfast love.

It is not a fickle love. It is not a changing love. It is steady and faithful. Hesed… loyal love, faithful love, covenant love. I love this about the Lord. He doesn’t shine the light of His countenance and then suddenly hide it. His delight and His loving gaze are steady… fixed… unwavering. He is the faithful God, faithful and steady in His love toward us.

As I was soaking in this truth, it brought some other things to mind as well…

Our loose use of the “dark night of the soul”

We too loosely define and throw around the idea of the “dark night of the soul”. If we’re having a bad day and are in any way dulled, we like to jump and say that the Lord has randomly withdrawn His presence to produce hunger and longing within us. Like we were going along one day, doing really well in the sight of the Lord, and He went, “Oh… I know! I’ll hide and make them miserable so that they can grow!”

Most of the time, we don’t feel the Lord because we are distracted and dulled. Our hearts are so filled and consumed with lesser pleasures and lesser concerns. We get distracted by all of those things that Solomon went to great lengths to describe to us as mere vanity. Or we are dulled because of our repeated efforts to shield ourselves from pain by putting up protecting walls or shutting our hearts down in ways that don’t let us truly feel anything. Sin, too, is remarkably dulling.

When we so freely turn our self-inflicted dullness into such a “dark night”, we make God out to be someone who easily and frequently gives and takes away His affections. One who plays with us. One whose love cannot be trusted. One whose affections are not steady and are not faithful.

This creates huge contradictions about who God is. But we will generally reconcile these by explaining it away by trying to convince our troubled hearts with logical but weak arguments: “He is doing it for the sake of our growth and later benefit. So it’s still good.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to say that the Lord doesn’t hide His face. There are times when we will certainly not feel His nearness, love, and delight. Because He is just and faithful to discipline. When we are walking in outright sin, the Lord will, in His kindness, hide His face. What I am thinking of here is illustrated pretty well in Psalm 107.

Psalm 107 gives a couple of examples where men choose wickedness and God afflicts them because of their rebellion, transgression, iniquity. In their suffering they cry out to the Lord and He swiftly comes in His mercy to deliver them from all of their distresses and trouble. And then He blesses abundantly… because God likes to do stuff like that. The whole process, afflicting and all, is God’s steadfast love, if you ask me.

So… when it comes to things like discipline and judgement… sure… the Lord will hide His face. I’m just saying that, as a general rule, He doesn’t just hide His face for fun.

There are other ways in which I think we kind of get this “dark night” thing a little off. I’ve heard so many people teach that God withdraws for the sake of creating longing, so that we feel our need for Him. We become dissatisfied when He seems to be gone and hunger is thus awakened. Then, He can come and answer that hunger and longing and draw us deeper into Himself.

Rather, I think that the hunger comes first. God enlarges our capacity. He brings us to the place where our experience of His nearness is not quite enough… where we become desperate to know more of Him. It is an expanding and broadening. So He doesn’t have to run away or pull back to make us dissatisfied. (This would be the equivalent of a girl who plays games and especially plays hard to get.)

We simply have that hunger awakened within us that knows there is something deeper and has to have it. So we don’t necessarily have any less of God. We just can’t be sated any longer with what we are already touching of God. So… hearts enlarged and capacity expanded leads to awakened hunger leads to crying out to God and being met with His eager desire to draw us deeper.

So… another partial recap and conclusion of that last bit. I do not believe that God is particularly fond of inflicting the “dark night of the soul” by withdrawing His love and nearness for the sake of making us want Him more. He will awaken hunger within us, but that generally happens as the result of experiencing His lovingkindness… not ceasing to experience it. He is a God of faithful, steady love. In that faithful, covenant love, He will also afflict us when we are choosing sin… to lead us to that place of crying out to Him so that He can extend His mercy.

(A side-note of sorts: God, unlike men, does not have to put up walls to protect Himself. He has amazing strength and confidence. He feels the pain of our rebellion and rejection, but He doesn’t distance Himself off from us to protect Himself from feeling it. God doesn’t need protecting. He has the strength to endure that pain… and does to a far greater extent than I think we can imagine.)

OK, all of that may have been remarkably unclear. I tried! 🙂

Did someone manage to grasp a good nugget out of all of that jumbled “I think that what I am trying to say” mess?


One comment

  1. Thank you for this article, so needed as I was tossing and turning in my bed. Monday I gave what I thought was a prophetic word to a young lady at the Intercessory Prayer Group, which I am the moderator. We were ministering to a young woman whose “heart was broken.” I sensed a face (appearing as a sun) partially hidden with a page or cover. I then spoke of God had hid his face for a moment…Oh no this is old testament and I spoke it…thinking I am in error, afraid I missed it, oh what a mess I have made. She shakes her head like yes yes. I imagine she was sleeping with him, thus making the hurt worse.

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