They couldn’t wait to say their vows. I watched as the couple standing at the altar giggled and squirmed, eagerly repeating the minister’s words.
These weren’t just any words—they were promises that would bind and intertwine their lives together. They were weighty and hopeful, tender and courageous.
Most of us cannot comprehend the depth of these words and the grace of such commitments until we live out our marital vows in seasons marked by sickness instead of health or in times that feel worse instead of better. Only then do we realize a promise’s power, not only for our marriage but ultimately in our walk with God.
Promises hold our feet to the ground when fierce circumstances whip around us. They give us air when the darkness threatens to collapse our lungs. And they push our wearied hearts forward, toward the ultimate marriage with an everlasting Savior who will one day fulfill every hope.
So it’s important for us to understand what promises are made of—their very composition makes them durable, sustainable, and safe. More than just flighty words and fairy-like hopes, they give us something to grip onto when life grows weighty, dark, and desperate.
Rooted in relationship – Tucked within two little words—“I promise”—lays a relationship. We seldom say such words to strangers because there’s nothing that binds us to them. We make commitments with trusted friends, close family, and those we love.
When my husband gave me an engagement ring, it reflected the relationship we shared and also anticipated the relationship we looked forward to entering. His generous gift symbolized his commitment, not only on the day he gave it but every day thereafter.
On a much deeper level, God does the same. He gives promises to his people because he has good plans for them. His words are never empty or overstated. Instead they give purpose to our present, strengthening us to press on until we reach the other side.
Reflects character – Declarations of love and commitment easily roll off the tongue. But the realities spoken and lived out require fortitude and grace.
When my husband and I stood at the altar three-and-a-half years ago, I couldn’t envision how quickly our vows would be tested. I thought the health issues would come years later. I believed our stewardship would stave off financial stresses. But it didn’t work that way.
Instead, what showed up amidst the changes and crises was character. Every time my husband kept his word to love and cherish, care and keep, I saw his grit. And I reflected upon such grace.
When God’s promises feel far-fetched, we can cling to his character. This side of heaven, I can’t always put the pain-filled pieces together. I can’t see how he’ll work good things out of bad. So when I can’t comprehend his ways, I keep clinging to the words he uttered until the thick blanket of doubt lifts from my soul. Then I see the beautifully battered story he was weaving through every broken moment.
Requires trust – As we enter into a relationship, we entrust ourselves to another. We believe that actions will follow words, that sacrifices will follow affections.
When my husband asked me to marry him, I trusted him. When we stood at the white marbled altar and said our vows, I trusted him again. And every day since, we’ve learned to live out those words, trusting each other again and again.
It’s hard to depend upon another person. And some days, it’s difficult to entrust ourselves to an invisible God. He commits himself to us. And he calls us to do the same, stepping from our comforts into his unforeseen care.
Perhaps that’s why Hebrews 11 gives us such a long list of faulty but faithful characters. Each life illuminates the trustworthiness of God’s words. Like a tightly woven chord starting with Abel and Abraham and ending with us, the Church, God has kept his promises.
Together all of us will one day stand at an eternal altar and say our vows. As we do, every promise uttered and hope anticipated will come true with one final heavenly “I do.”