"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Gift Undeserved...Grace

My mind, and heart, has been reeling with this question "Why me?" for a while now. It's not a poor-pitiful-me  attitude of "Why is this happening to me?", but a what-have-I-done-to-deserve-Your-grace  attitude, as in, "Why do You love me so much and give me so much?" I'm currently reading the book "One Thousand Gifts" by Anne Voskamp. It's a wonderful book with so many insights to ponder. In chapter five, I found the following thoughts to be that which caused my heart to search more deeply of what I've been unable to voice on my own...
Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps... 
Who deserves any  grace? ...Why are we allowed two? Why lavished with three? A whole string of grace days? ... 
Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life...And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering... 
...emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy.
Wow! Each one of those phrases say so much by itself, but when you put them all together in the chapter of the book you get a sense of the One True God who loves me (us) so much that He gives me, a sinner, grace sufficient enough to overcome suffering to where I can experience joy. He gives me a chance at new life through His suffering on the cross. But do I recognize such Grace when given...or do I miss out?

Grace, as defined in the dictionary, is "the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God; a gift undeserving". We Christians often think of God's grace in the ultimate sense - His gift of salvation. But I believe the Lord grants us graces every day in little ways and big ways...often unnoticed by us in our busy lives.

I have asked the Lord many times why am I still without a husband and children when all of my friends have been richly blessed with such. I have been content with singleness for quite a while, but lately I have been asking, "Why am I single...?". Before my mind even comes to the end of its thought the Lord answers me {every time} with, "But look at what I have given you. I have given you family and friends to share your love and joy with. I have given you classrooms of children to not only teach, but to mentor."  My head bows in shame with this realization that I have not seen these facets of my life in this manner before; these graces from God that I have received. I realize {each time} in that moment, all of God's grace He has showered upon me. How could I have missed this? And what's more, I begin to notice with an open heart that Jesus has graced me in other areas of my life too that I have taken for granted, or worse, which I have seen as a burden.

I can remember how angry I was with God 14 years ago when I was to leave Nashville and move back to Florida to work in the ministry. I prayed about that move for three months, to know His Will...within the first month He gave me His answer - I was to move back to Florida. Oh how I was angry with that answer, so I kept asking/praying. Thinking - hoping- He would change His mind. (That's a funny thought) "How could He ask this of me?", I questioned. Yes, I was needing a new job and was praying for a new job, but not in a different state and especially not for a job that paid less than the job I already had! Leaving Nashville meant I was leaving what I thought was my dream and potential to have a career in the music industry, and I was no longer going to be within driving distances of my sisters. How could Jesus want this for me? What was He thinking?

GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!! I knew this then...I know this now.

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all you heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight."
(Mom, Grandmom, and Dad...March 2011)

It doesn't matter why I was being sent back to Florida...it's not for me to understand, just do. I knew there was a reason for me to move back, but I was not privy to it - yet. Voskamp said, "Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps." His Word has allowed me to see clearly {now} His grace of bringing me home to Florida...to be with other  family members - my grandmother, Mom and Dad. I've found if I want my life to be more in focus to His will I must be in the Word. We may not understand His will, we may not always like His answers, but He knows best! GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!! And sometimes, He even allows us to see why He gave us the answer He did...as He did for me in my coming home. Why was I sent home? I was to be closer to those family members who would need more family support in the coming years; support during their cancer crisis. What a mighty grace He granted me so many years ago.


Okay, let me pause here and state a simple fact for those who may be asking, "Then why does God make the bad things happen in our lives? How could this be in His will?" God Almighty is good and perfect and righteous and loving and just...He does not cause bad (evil) to happen, but He does allow it to take place so we may turn to Him in our faith during the crisis. Did you know He will not give us more than we can bear?...
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
As I quoted from Voskamp earlier, "...emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy." Often in our crisis of grief and/or despair we become empty and unable to find comfort. In that emptiness is our opportunity to find God's grace, which will then lead us back to joy.

In those moments when we may perceive "bad" as happening in our lives, THERE IS GRACE...
  • Your car is totalled, but no one got hurt.
  • You got laid off, but now you can spend more time with your loved-one who is sick.
  • You're stuck in traffic at a dead-stop for 3 hours, but you're not part of the fatal accident 500 yards ahead which is the cause of the traffic jam.
  • Your child is born with a disability, but is healthy in every other way.
  • Your loved-one passed away, but did not suffer and is now whole again with Christ in heaven because they chose the Lord's gift of salvation.

Find the Graces that the Lord is giving you each day and you will find your Joy!

There are so many areas of my life I often ask "why?", and so {now} I try to find the grace within it. I only wish to understand what I have done to deserve such grace so many times over. But I guess that's the point of grace...it is a gift undeserving and freely given.

Romans 11:6 states, "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." 

The God of All loves me so much He gives grace freely, because I am His child and He loves me unconditionally. I have done nothing to warrant such Grace. If anything, I continually give Him reason not to love me. Woah! Thank goodness God is God and not you or I.

Soooo...I'm single...in my twenties, I was content with singleness; I can even say happy. In my thirties, I have questioned why I am single. He has shown me though - in my singleness - some of His graces:

 1 I have a career I love that offers the capability to pay my bills; 2 I own my own house and was taught in my upbringing how to fix things when they break; 3 I have close and trustworthy friends I can lean on, who are also fellow believers in Christ so as to hold me accountable to Him. 4 I have the honor of playing my guitar and singing with the Worship Team; 5 I am blessed with the opportunities to perform in the Community Theaters.
What  marvelous grace He has given me!

I am truly blessed with Jesus' grace many times over. And it all started at the cross with Jesus, and my repentance and then acceptance of His Grace. "Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life. And there is no other way. It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace. And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering."  (Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

I ask, Why me?  Voskamp asked, "Who deserves any  grace? Why are we allowed two? Why lavished with three? A whole string of grace days?". Even in the bad situations, there is always Grace...we just have to look to Him and His Word to see it.

In His grace I find joy and thanksgiving... and I am blessed!

May you see the grace He gives you each day, and therefore, find your joy.

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