God’s Painful Grace

There was a time when I believed God’s grace to be something that was always comforting, always miraculous, always a blissfully joyful thing to experience. And it IS all of those things, but not always. Yes, God’s grace has brought me to thankful tears. God’s grace has brought relief and happiness to my heart. God’s grace has overwhelmed me as a loving force that cannot quite be put into words, where I’ve simply felt waves of love washing over me.

But, recently, as I have reflected on some very pivotal moments in my life, I’ve come to also notice a pattern of what I’ll call “painful grace”. This often comes in the form of shattered dreams, a broken heart, a lost job and the like. And it’s not until you’ve come completely out of the situation and (significant) time has passed, and the heart is open for lessons to be gleaned from the experience, that you realize that it was God’s grace at work in those difficult moments also.

At the time, we can rarely see it as grace, because we’re in the throes of pain and disappointment. We’re grieving, lamenting, mourning. It’s difficult to see clearly when we’re in the middle of grappling with the “why” and “how” of our agonizing experiences. But, in hindsight, we can see God’s hand of grace in those very situations.

Later, after the fact, we see that God’s grace in our losing that job was that He was moving us out of our comfort zone, or perhaps removing us from a place with no growth opportunity, or maybe removing us from a toxic work environment so that we could move onto the next opportunity that He had for us. If we’d not have been ‘moved’ from that position, we might have remained in a place of stagnancy and/or missed out on the next chapter God had for us for career growth and change.

After the fact, we see that God’s grace in that failed relationship was Him moving us out of an unhealthy situation, or saving us from a lifetime commitment with a toxic person, or saving us from a situation were we’d have been ill-matched or not truly valued.  However, by His grace, He ‘moved’ us out of that situation so that we could be free to move into a place of self-growth and healing, and/or into a place of preparation for a better future relationship.

After the fact, we can see that God’s grace in that failed business or shattered dream was Him repositioning us. He was re-routing us to an even greater purpose and more fulfilling dream. That ‘failure’ caused us to rethink life, upgrade our perspective, and brainstorm a new, more innovative plan or idea than we would’ve thought of if we’d have not experienced that failure. I once heard Bishop TD Jakes saying something to the effect of – ‘what if our failures are really our gateways to the next phase of our purpose?!’ [paraphrased]

Ohhh, God’s painful grace! We do not readily embrace it. We fight it. We even hate it, because at the time it does not seem like grace… It only feels like pain. But, if our hand is in God’s hand, shouldn’t we trust Him to lead us through this process? To refine us? To grow us? Even if at times His grace is painful?

©2019 Life Together with Kay Dee, “God’s Painful Grace”

photo credit: morguefile.com

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

There’s a song called “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by a group called Casting Crowns. I really love this song because it calls the “Church” to the carpet. We, in our organized religion have sometimes – not always – but often enough to notice, gone about sharing our faith and beliefs in Christ in a way that does more harm than good. We’ve been judgemental, critical, mean, snobbish and self-righteous. Yet, would you believe that many people are really well-intentioned? Yes, it’s true. They just go about sharing their passion for their Christian faith in not-the-best way. I’ve been there, too. I’ve acted those ways. I’m not proud of it. But, when the “light bulb” went on, I was so happy.

You see, God, He’s really amazing. He doesn’t leave us like we are. If we are in relationship with him, He brings certain things to light in our lives that need changed, tweaked, adjusted or even added-to or cut-out of our lives, and He helps us with those things. He’s awesome.

All of this doesn’t mean that if you’re a Christian, you can’t be passionate about what you believe. On the contrary. Your heart can be full of vim and verve for sharing the message/gospel of Christ. Most definitely. But, when we share with others, I think we must always remember how Christ found us…what state we were in. And if we were resistant to the message of the gospel…what was it that reached through our shields and walls and connected with us?

I personally wasn’t resistant to the message of Christ. However, I was struggling with some things personally. And what touched me the most, was a couple of friends who consistently reached out to me. They were my friends and stuck by me through thick and thin. They listened to me without judging me and they shared the message of the Bible with me in a gentle and loving way, over a period of months and years. They never watered down God’s truth, but, always shared it with me in a loving manner and through a friendship. That was how they exemplified Christ’s love to me. It was through their example that I was able to see that even if I was struggling with some things that I knew were wrong or unhealthy, Christ loved/loves me and sticks with me through it all, and helps me eventually overcome whatever it is, if I let him.

If we look at Christ’s dealings with people who were ‘unbelievers’ (this does not include the religious leaders of the day, nor folks that were already following Christ), we see that He was kind, compassionate, caring, gentle, loving, patient. He still shared truth without compromising, but the WAY he did it was key. He did it with love and compassion.

I think that we, as Christians, on the whole, are learning to share Christ’s truth & love in a more loving way. We can choose to love people and befriend people and dialogue with people whose beliefs are different from ours without judging or condemning them. We can share the gospel message of Christ with people, just like my friends shared it with me so many years ago…through friendship and in a loving manner. And if/when we disagree with people or vice versa, it’s okay. One of my former pastors always used to say “Agree to disagree agreeably”. But, at least talk. At least share. It’s not our responsibility as Christians to MAKE people believe. But Jesus said “Go! And tell the world…” So it’s our duty to share the news/message of Christ and let GOD through his Holy Spirit, do the work of working in people’s hearts and minds. What will be, will be. Sometimes you’ll share the news once. Sometimes you’ll share the news over a period of days, months or years. But just share in love. God can surely handle the rest.