You may be wondering where I’ve been. I’m thankful if you have. It’s been too long since I’ve posted, but things in life compete for attention. The art in life is learning to prioritize the right things. Like most people, it’s one of those things I need to intentionally practice, I suppose.
Life events sometimes redirect us, don’t they? Some of life’s “stuff” captures our heart and mind in very specific, if not painful, ways. Family members going through hardship is one of those things. We all know that. I’d like to wrestle with some of it here, if you don’t mind.
Where is grace’s place in the “tough stuff” of life? (Surely, I am not the first to ask that question!)
Dear Abba Father, where is grace’s place when whole towns are leveled to the ground, when families are devastated by separation between this world and the next (for now or for all eternity), when newborns enter the world with promise and hope quickly overshadowed by health complications and untraceable diagnoses? We can all fill in the blank with familiar painful events that wound our fragile hearts.
This week my heart breaks for a brother- and sister-in-law and their precious newborn. A successful delivery. Breathing troubles. NICU. Seizures. Lots of testing and medication. A transfer to a specialized children’s hospital. More seizures. More medication. Procedures. All in a couple of weeks. My heart hurts! It isn’t supposed to go this way. A first child, an infant only days old—it should look differently, shouldn’t it?
But, this world is rather imperfect and messed up.
So, how do I wrestle with God’s beautiful, fragrant grace under the most difficult circumstances? What do I do when circumstances shred me emotionally? When I feel like I’m sitting in an increasingly larger puddle of salty tears, or when the troubles of this world are more than I think I can bear for even another hour, let alone days—God, what do I do?
Lean in. That’s what I have to do, even if it means weak, tearful, exhausted leaning. I have to lean into the truth of God’s character expressed in Scripture, or my head will swim with my own fantastic ideas or opinions or, honestly, lies. And, when the Bible starts to sound trite, there’s something to be fixed in me, not the words I’m reading. Those words are truth (in proper context, of course) and can be trusted above and beyond my fears and emotions. Period.
So, when I lean in, what do I find? I find sweet reminders from my heavenly Father like these:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:3
Dear Father and Jesus, in your powerful love for me, you offer grace and peace. In the Hebrew, peace is shalom; in the Greek, it’s eirēnē.* Thank you!
A quick look at peace in the biblical context is rich with layers of meaning. While a personal or national calm, tranquil state is included, there is much more. I’m soaking in the words: security, safety, prosperity, the blessed state of an upright person after death. Some of those words are more soothing than others, truthfully, and I really like the first three words a lot. But, there is a biblical piece to peace that we absolutely can’t miss: the Messiah’s peace, peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ (salvation). When I get there, it’s a short hop to remembering how really brief this life is. And, though each day has plenty of trouble (Matthew 6:34), it’s not going to be like this forever. Thank you!
But, the brevity of circumstances in light of the brevity of this life doesn’t always do much for me in the middle of the really hard stuff. I want to say I’m able to look at the tough stuff with eternal perspective and minimize it’s effect on me, but I’ve got to be real. In the moment, the moment made of seconds that drag on in slow, excruciating ticks and tocks of the clock, I get myopic.
So, then what?
Lean in some more. Lean in more intentionally.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV
Moreover, God has the power to provide you with every gracious gift in abundance, so that always in every way you will have all you need yourselves and be able to provide abundantly for every good cause— 2 Corinthians 9:8 CJB
God is able. He will provide so I will always have all I need. I will have enough to share! I love comparing translations for this reason: this time the NIV was good, but the CJB was helpful in getting to fuller understanding. Here I feel God used translators to teach me about leaning in.
When I lean in, God infuses his truth and grace and power into my weakness. Look what happens at this point! God gives me enough for me; my emotional, spiritual, and (maybe) physical needs are met. Then I have enough for others, too. When I lean into my relationship with my Father and Jesus through the Holy Spirit, I am gifted peace and grace for my own soul—and I have something to gift to others who are hurting, the ones my heart is breaking for to begin with.
Maybe you know what it’s like to take the shortcut directly to others without leaning in to your Father first. I know I do. Often my efforts are colored with worry and emotional weakness. They lack real truth and gentle compassion. Are you familiar with that, too?
I think I’ll lean in first.
Thanks for reading along. I’d love to hear your thoughts on grace’s place in the tough stuff.