Seeing God’s Faithfulness in the Ordinary Life
of Thomas Chisholm
Many of us know the popular hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” The chorus concludes with, “All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!” Unlike other hymns that were written under dire circumstances, like “It is Well With My Soul,” which was written by Horatio Spafford after he lost his four daughters in a shipwreck, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” was written under humdrum circumstances.
We often look for signs of God’s faithfulness, though we also often ascribe our own standards to what God’s faithfulness should look like. To one it means getting a promotion, to another having the perfect marriage or family life, and to another having a wonderful house that impresses your friends. Or maybe faithfulness means a miraculous healing for you or a loved one or freedom for a child who is struggling with addiction. While the Lord does indeed show up in many of these ways, it is not guaranteed that His faithfulness to us will appear in the exact way we would expect. Nevertheless, the Lord is always faithful to us and to His Word, which will always accomplish what He desires and never return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11).
We do not need to be rescued from life-threatening danger or see God’s miraculous provision in the direst of financial crises to truly know the faithfulness of the Lord. These are certainly blessings and dramatic illustrations of His goodness, but we should not rely on them as the only examples. God remains faithful day in and day out, even in the smallest and most mundane circumstances.
This was a lesson that the children of Israel had to learn. There were undoubtedly extraordinary examples of God’s faithfulness, such as when He parted the waters during the Exodus or sent manna from heaven. But God was also with them every day. His very presence was in their midst. The greatest sign of His faithfulness to Israel was His presence with them (Emmanuel—God with us), just as it is the greatest sign of His faithfulness to us. The greatest illustration of that faithfulness is His Son, Jesus.
Sometimes we get lost looking for miracles and lose sight of His everyday faithfulness. Thomas Chisholm did not lose family or friends to tragedy, nor did he champion a great cause. He was not a charismatic preacher with thousands of people flocking to his church on Sunday. Although Chisholm did serve in ministry, his poor health left him no choice but to retire after only one year. And yet, Chisholm recognized that no matter what his circumstances, God is still faithful, “morning by morning.” God is not only seen in the spectacular: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…” (Romans 1:20); but also in the mundane: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 5:16). God is indeed great in His faithfulness.
The writer of Hebrews continues this idea when he writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
With Thanksgiving around the corner, we look at the early English settlers who hoped for something they did not see and relied on the faithfulness of God. During the previous winter, many had died of cold and hunger. Still, during the first Thanksgiving, we can imagine the pilgrims giving thanks to God in tears as they celebrated for the first time, continuing to hope. The Bible describes many people of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). As much as this is a statement about the faith of these people, it is also a statement in the trust that they had in the faithfulness of God to fulfill what He promised.
The Apostle Paul had such a faith. In Philippians 4:12, he encourages the Philippians in the midst of his own trials: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Paul wrote these words from a jail cell, and he still trusted in the faithfulness of God.
When we see signs and wonders and dramatic examples of the Lord’s faithfulness, it is easy to believe, trust, and hope. Sometimes when we hit rock bottom and lose everything (like Horatio Spafford did) we have no other place to look but up. When the dust settles from dramatic miracles or trials, when we get back into our routine, the things we hope for are not easily seen but are obscured by the cares and worries of daily life, and it becomes easy to forget that it is only by God’s faithfulness that we have anything at all.
There is a wonderful prayer from the Jewish prayer book that simply acknowledges that we are where we are today, wherever that happens to be, because of God’s faithfulness. In English it says, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and allowed us to reach this time (season).” This blessing, typically recited at special times and holidays, in recognition of God’s faithfulness, could truly be recited any time, when we need a little reminder that God is with us.
“Great is Thy Faithfulness” has a similar theme and tone. While Thomas Chisholm may not have turned heads in his day, the reflections and meditations he wrote during his ordinary life outlived him and continue to encourage us even to this day, turning our eyes toward God and reminding us that God is always looking toward us. Having everyday faith in God is a sign of maturity and character—which God develops in us as He answers our prayers in His timing and the way He sees fit.
Jesus says in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” If we are to learn to trust Him based on His prior trustworthiness, this statement is all that we need. He has overcome the world, just as He promised. There is no reason to think that He will not continue to be faithful in all things.
Chisholm put it this way:
“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above; join with all nature in manifold witness, to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.”
May you experience the joy of the Lord this Thanksgiving and have the strength to hope for that which remains unseen, rejoicing in the blessed assurance of the Lord, the author, and finisher of your faith.