Have you ever made a promise to God that you didn’t keep? Maybe the more appropriate question is, “How many promises have you made to God that you didn’t keep?”
With bitter sorrow and regret, I remember promises I made to the Lord. “If You’ll just get me through this, Lord, I promise I’ll never…” Or “I’m sorry I did that, Lord. If You’ll forgive me one more time, I promise I’ll never do that again.” Oh, I meant what I said at the time I said it. But I underestimated the grip my sins and weaknesses had on me. And I overestimated my commitment to my Lord. As I think about those repeated instances in my life, I am even more grateful for our Father’s wisdom in including Peter’s story in the Bible. Peter knew what it was to boldly promise loyalty to Jesus only to find himself a few hours later earnestly denying, with curses, that he was even acquainted with Jesus. In my own pathetic, weak-willed way, I understand how Peter felt when, having been transfixed by the Lord’s gaze, he went out and wept bitterly.
One of the possible sad results of making promises to God that we fail to keep is that we may over-react. (I am so given to extremes.) Eventually, I stopped making promises to Him. In the name of not lying to Him, I stopped making promises.
Husbands and wives promise to keep themselves to one another as long as they live. If one or the other of them sins tragically in that area, and if forgiveness is sought, offered and accepted, are they to forget about their promise because they messed up? No! They are to begin again to live by it. If it is in their heart to honor their vow, that is a good thing…a thing to be desired…a thing to be followed. Yes, things change when such betrayals occur. Dreams are shattered. Hearts are devastated. And, whatever else may happen, you can never, ever, go back and undo the terrible wrong. But, by God’s grace and each partner’s willingness, you can start over…you can make new and, perhaps, even stronger promises because of your difficult experience.
I’m saying I should not have stopped making promises to God. Is it really possible for lovers not to promise things to each other? I don’t think so. Wonderful, heartfelt promises are a blessing to relationships. Even when unforeseen circumstances intervene and prevent the fulfillment of my promise at a given time, it was still good that it was in my heart to do it? Isn’t that so? I think I might have been wiser in my promises to my Father God. I shouldn’t have spoken rashly. But I should have spoken with good intentions out of a heart for Him. Don’t you think so? I should have told Him that whenever I messed up, I wouldn’t give up. I should have told Him that I didn’t understand the strength of sin, but that I wanted to love Him more than my sin. I should have told Him that by His grace, by Jesus’ Cross, I would never quit on Him. I should have told Him that in my better moments, I wanted to be like Him…to be used of Him…to glorify Him…to be ever near Him. And yes, I would say it better than my weaknesses would allow me to live it, but…but…by my growth (even if it were so small) in the direction of holiness, I would be promising Him, in the best of ways possible for me…that I was His, come what may, in good times or bad, until death unites us forever.