Faithfulness – Day 1

But the fruit of the Spirit is … faithfulness.  (Galations 5:25-26).  Would it surprise you to know that the actual Greek word used here is, simply, “faith”?  It surprised me, at first.

So much can be said about faith.  But, many months ago, as the seed of this Bible study was growing in my heart, I read the following explanation of Psalm 131.

Go ahead and read Psalm 131.

Now, since having children, I never understood the part about cultivating my soul like a weaned child.  A nursing child is nearly always comforted by her mother.   Weary, nursing mama friends, is that not right?  Weary, papas of nursing babies — isn’t that true?  Here your tired baby fussy.  Here your hungry baby is fussy.  No amount of gentle bouncing or distractions will comfort like mama’s breast.  Usually it’s instant contentedness.

Should not the Psalmist have said my soul is like a nursing infant with the Lord?

Eugene Peterson explains:

Hesed is Hebrew for “faithful love.”  It is God’s faithfulness in freely offering love and maintaining that love in the face of wandering hearts and even rejection – God’s love is available to all, whether they have turned away from His call before or not.

Psalm 131 (Message translation) GOD, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain.  I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans.  I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.  Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.  Wait, Israel, for GOD.  Wait with hope.  Hope now; hope always!

Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust.  We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies.  The Christian is not a naive, innocent infant who has no identity apart from a feeling of being comforted and protected and catered to but a person who has discovered an identity given by God which can be enjoyed best and fully in voluntary trust in God.  We do not cling to God desperately out of fear and the panic of insecurity; we come to him freely in faith and love.

The transition from a sucking infant to a weaned child, from squalling baby to quiet son or daughter, is not smooth.  It is stormy and noisy.  It is no easy thing to quiet yourself: sooner may we calm the sea or rule the wind or tame a tiger than quiet ourselves.  It is pitched battle.  The baby is denied expected comfort and flied into rages or sinks into sulks.  There are sobs and struggles.  The infant is facing its first great sorrow and it is in sore distress.

Many who have traveled this way of faith have described the transition from an infantile faith that grabs at God out of desperation to a mature faith that responds to God out of love, “like a baby content in its mother’s arms.”  Often our conscious Christian lives do not begin at points of desperation, and God, of course, does not refuse to meet our needs.  Heavenly comforts break through our despair and persuade us that “all will be well and all manner of things will be well.”  The early stages of Christian belief are not infrequently marked with miraculous signs and exhilaration of spirit.  But as discipleship continues, the sensible comforts gradually disappear.  For God does not want us neurotically dependent on him but willingly trustful in him.  And so he weans us.  The period of infancy will not be sentimentally extended beyond what is necessary.  The time of weaning is very often noisy and marked by misunderstandings: I no longer feel like I did when I was first a Christian.  Does that mean I am no longer a Christian?  Has God abandoned me?  Have I done something terribly wrong? // The answer is neither.  God hasn’t abandoned you and you haven’t done anything wrong.  You are being weaned.  The apron strings have been cut.

*** … what Psalm 131 nurtures [is] a quality of calm confidence and quiet strength that knows the difference between unruly arrogance and faithful aspiration, knows how to discriminate between infantile dependency and childlike trust, and chooses to aspire and to trust –and to sing, “I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.  Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.  (Peterson, A Long  Obedience in the Same Direction, pp. 155-56, 158)

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