Steadfast love. It's a phrase that pops up regularly in Scripture and it speaks of God's unfailing, never-ending, Hesed love towards his people. We are often reminded that "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23) It is truly a wonderful promise and it should bring us great comfort and joy and yet, we don't always "feel" like we are the beneficiaries of "steadfast love", do we? Depending on your experience, perhaps your day is going like this: your youngest child just threw up in your purse, the car has a flat tire, the bill collector is knocking at the door, you had some unkind words with your spouse before they headed off to work this morning, there's a nagging pain in your abdomen that won't seem to go away, nothing fits and you have nothing to wear, the boss is micro-managing again, the printer toner just erupted on your white shirt, the dog actually did eat your homework, you were dumped on Twitter, and you went through half the day unaware that the poppy seed bagel you had grabbed for breakfast had managed to lodge most of its seeds between your teeth. It might be tempting to say at this point, "Lord, where's your steadfast love right now? This feels like a whole lot of steadfast indifference!"
The problem might be my desire to define what "steadfast love" looks like to me. I find that I have often tried to define how I want to be loved, treated, respected, etc., on my own terms and can easily get frustrated or feel unloved when someone else is using a different standard of measurement than my own. In the situations described above, I want steadfast love to look like well behaved healthy children doing their homework, lottery winnings stacked high on the kitchen island, a Rolls Royce purring in the driveway, a loving kiss on my spouse's cheek, recognition and a 30% raise from the boss, a perfect smile, a fashion sense and clothes to match that would flatter my figure, etc. I want it to look and feel easy.
But what if God is the one who gets to decide what his steadfast love looks like? In Genesis 39:20-21 we have this interesting example of God's steadfast love towards Joseph. Joseph has just been falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and so "Joseph's master took him and put him in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison." Ok, he's got favor in the eyes of the prison warden but he's still incarcerated, his freedom is gone, he's alone, he appears forgotten and abandoned, life is not normal, he's not free to go out with friends, his world is very small and yet the Bible tells us that in that very moment, God is showing him "steadfast love." What this tells me is that God's steadfast love toward me is completely independent of my circumstances and how I "feel" about them. I am to take him at his word. His steadfast love is never failing, it is constant, it is purposeful for my good. As David reminded us this past Sunday, God's steadfast love has been poured out on me at the cross, it is complete, lacking nothing, it is transformative, it is unchanging, it doesn't diminish, it never wanes and it has nothing to do with my circumstances. "Herein is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins..." (1 John 4:10) What more do I need? These temporary afflictions are fleeting, they are not steadfast, they will fade away like the morning dew, never to be remembered or thought of again. As we interact with one another as the people of God, let us continue to encourage one another to look at how great a salvation we have in Christ, not at the relatively fleeting circumstances of our lives and let us truly rejoice in his ever present, underlying, steadfast love towards us.