The apostle Paul told his young protégé Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). I know those words have a specific meaning in the context of the letter, but I sometimes wonder if the fight of the faith is the fight to believe that God is for us and not against us (Rom. 8:31). It’s a fight to believe that “Christ always leads us in triumphal procession” (2 Cor. 2:14). It’s a fight to believe that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
In a world blanketed by losses, it’s a fight to believe—not just confess with our lips, but believe way down deep, in the core of our being—that God is good.
This truth came to me in a fresh way as I read John Greenleaf Whittier’s (1807–1892) poem “I Bow My Forehead to the Dust.”
I bow my forehead to the dust;
I veil mine eyes for shame
And urge, in trembling self-distrust
A prayer without a claim.
I see the wrong that round me lies;
I feel the guilt within.
I hear with groan and travail-cries
The world confess its sin.
Yet in the maddening maze of things,
And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed stake my spirit clings:
I know that God is good.
I dimly guess from blessings known
Of greater out of sight,
And, with the chastened psalmist, own
His judgments too are right.
I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies.
And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed he will not break
But strengthen and sustain.
And so beside the Silent Sea
I wait with muffled oar;
No harm from him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.
I know not where his islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond his love and care.