The most important promise I’ve ever made was on the afternoon of June 15th, 2013 at Canoe Studios in Manhattan.
On that blessed day, looking out over the Hudson River just a few short miles from where we met in a bar in the West Village with the hot summer sun streaming in through the oversize glass windows; I made a promise to my beautiful Steph to be her husband, to always love her and to always be on her team whatever life threw at us.
Since then there have been, like in any marriage, moments of great joy and utter delight and moments less befitting those descriptions. And yes, for those that know me, I know they would want me to point out that more of those less stellar moments are my fault. But thankfully, like our father above, Steph is forgiving!
But perhaps no other moment during our time together compared to the birth of our son, Theo, some 16 months ago. We made a solemn promise to our tiny little seven-pound nine-ounce boy in the hospital that we would always love him, take care of him and to the best of our collective abilities help him find his way in the world.
Two promises, six years apart, have changed my life for the better in ways I couldn’t even have begun to imagine.
Respected 20th century political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, has an interesting way of explaining the nature of the promises we make. As she puts it: “Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.”
The clue there is in the final two words – humanly possible.
We try and fail all the time to impose order and control over our lives, to bend the narrative our way but the simple often inconvenient truth is you can’t control external factors. As much as I hope I can always protect Theo from the terrors of the world and from anything bad happening, I know that there is only so much I can do. Not that it will stop me trying.
But as Jesus reminds us in Luke:
Luke 18:27 -- (NIV) “What is impossible with man is possible with God.
And the same is true of promises. Yes, we can make all the promises we want here on earth but we are at best flawed creatures compared to a perfect God. There are quite literally thousands of God’s promises in the Bible (the exact count varies) and from Genesis through the final book of Revelation, we see regular people, just like you and me, as the recipients of the promises. And those divine promises are sealed by the highest authority. As the apostle Paul writes in Hebrews:
Hebrews 6:13 – (NIV) 13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, nothing compares to the promises that God makes over our lives.
Here are five of those promises of God that I hope encourage you today.
1) GOD WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU
Ephesians 3:17-19 – (NIV) 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
What a promise this is for us.
Think about what you love most in the world: A child, a spouse, a sibling, a significant other, a friend, a sports team. Then try to wrap your head around the thought that how much God loves you obliterates your feelings in comparison. Love that surpasses knowledge is the kind of love we quite literally cannot put into words. That’s how much God loves you today, tomorrow and every day for the rest of your life.
2) GOD WILL GIVE YOU PEACE
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Peace is a quality in scant supply of late. It wasn’t exactly in abundance prior to the pandemic, let’s be fair, and it’s even more elusive now. How many times a day in the last six months have you feel anxious or overwhelmed? Or just felt genuinely hopeless about the state of the world? It’s a natural human reaction to a crisis that we’d have rolled our eyes at in a Hollywood script. And in moments like this, God tells us not to be fretful and to bring it all to him in prayer; to lay it at his feet and to feel his peace which transcends all understanding in our hearts.
3) GOD WILL PROTECT YOU
2 Thessalonians 3:3 – (NIV) 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
In this verse, a letter to a community of believers he founded in Thessalonica, Greece, Paul is reminding the church that not only will they face their fair share of human opposition, Satan is in an active battle for control of their souls. This opposition is real and absolutely not fake news. But, and in this case it’s a glorious but, “the Lord is faithful and he will give you the strength you need. As we’re reminded in 2 Timothy:
2 Timothy 1:7 – (NKJV) 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
God will protect you and you can rest on that knowledge today.
4) GOD WILL FORGIVE OUR SINS
1 John 1:9 – (NIV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Through faith in Jesus, our sins – past, present and future – are forgiven but it is all too easy to let those sinful desires back in. And yes, we all do it -- we all sin. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. As Paul points out of himself in Romans:
Romans 7:15-18 – (NIV) 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
While the Bible reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, sin can become a barrier you erect. Be honest with yourself and with God and confess those sins, daily, in prayer.
5) GOD WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU
Deuteronomy 31:6 – (NIV) 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
This is a wonderful promise to finish with today. Our Lord will never leave us, he will never forsake us and not only that that he will go with us encouraging us to be strong and courageous. I’m speaking to myself as much as I am to you reading this – how different might our worlds look if we all truly lived with this at the core of our souls? Quite a bit I’m imagining.