We've all done it.
We told someone we would do something by a certain time and, after we've given our word, circumstances change, or, as we sometimes say, "life gets in the way." We become overwhelmed by other commitments. Suddenly the deadline arrives and the promised task is still not done.
Now, it's time for the awkward conversation which usually begins: "I know I said I would do it, but..." or "I really wanted to do it and I thought at the time I could, but..." No one, neither the maker of the promise nor the receiver, enjoys these hard talks.
The breaking of promises erodes trust and can negatively affect our relationships. The receiver of the promise thinks: "I can't rely on you" and guess what? They're right. The maker of the promise may feel as if they're caught in a trap of their own making and, as a self-defence mechanism, react as if the receiver of the promise is being ungrateful or their expectations are unrealistic.
We let each other down all the time. We don't always do the things we are supposed to do or say that we would. Did you break a promise this week?
Here's a case in point. I have monthly deadlines for the completion of these articles and invariably I am late. I often get a follow up email (or two or three) or a call from a colleague who has been tasked with the job of checking in on my progress by the patient, long-suffering and always gracious coordinator (thanks Dr. Mark Tronson!).
I have good reasons (note: I am avoiding use of the very loaded term "excuses") for my lateness. I am in a demanding job with pressing projects and deadlines in a dynamic environment, where I often do 12 hour work days. Usually I am too weary to do much else. Are these reasons legitimate? Yes. Does it make my tardiness in handing in my articles right? No.
When we break promises there are other persons affected. You create stress in their world. There is always a cost to your actions (or inaction). Sometimes we don't see or fully appreciate the ripple effects of our broken promises. It also impacts us: we feel guilty about disappointing those we care about. After all, we seldom set out to intentionally cause hurt.
The consequences of broken promises is probably one reason why God says you should let "your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no" (Matthew chapter 5, verse 37 and James chapter 5, verse 12). Because He made us, God has supernatural insight into human interactions and behaviour.
From a practical perspective, those of us who make promises must learn to manage the expectations of the other person (don't over-promise); alert the person as soon as we realise we may miss the deadline and if possible, make other arrangements or establish a new timeframe you can commit to and then actually do it. Additionally, we might all do well to learn to say "no" to some requests, so as not to overextend ourselves.
Promises we can trust
Like us, God makes promises. The Bible is full of promises made by God to His people. In some, he warned them of coming captivity or discipline (Jeremiah chapter 30, verse 11 or Amos chapter 9, verse 8). In others, he promised restoration (Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 10 or Isaiah chapter 43, verses 1–7). In all circumstances, whatever God said, happened.
There is a continuing promise in the Bible that God will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy chapter 31, verse 6 and Hebrews chapter 13, verse 5). For every struggle we face in life, we are not alone. He is always there for us. We can talk to Him and go to Him with whatever challenge we encounter.
Sometimes we feel God has forgotten us but let me remind you of the powerful imagery in Psalm chapter 27, verse 10, where the question is asked by God:
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"
The Bible tells us that God is not like us: He doesn't lie (Numbers chapter 23, verse 19). That means whatever He says we can count on. And He wants us to rely on what He says. You can trust His Word: 100% of the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year (and 366 days in a leap year). Unlike our friends, family or co-workers he will never let us down. We can be assured that His promises never fail.
Isn't it wonderful to know we can always count on God's promises?
A future promise
When He left earth Jesus said He would be back for His followers (John chapter 14, verse 3). That was 2000+ years ago. For an infinite God, 2000 years is a mere blip on the spectrum of the time he created and operates outside of. For time-bound humans who have an average lifespan of no more than 80 years, 2000 years is a really, really long time.
God is merciful. Although the world will be judged when Jesus comes again, we have been given time to accept Him. 2 Peter chapter 3, verse 9 says:
"The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
If you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus, think about having one today. I promise you won't regret it. And that's one promise I can stand behind.
Sharma considers herself a child of the Caribbean, having visited, studied, worked and lived in several Caribbean islands. But when she arrived in New Zealand, she discovered that she is also a kiwi at heart. She holds a PhD in Law from the Victoria University of Wellington.
Sharma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html