Sunday, April 16, 2006

Grace and My Skewed View of Life

In some strange way, I find this both humorous and encouraging. I wrote it, trying to encourage a friend. It's very hard for me to be enouraging, because I tend to want to tell people "things will get better" and inside my head, I am thinking "eventually." But it doesn't always work that way.

Sometimes, the wayward child does not make a turn for many years. Sometimes, the tumor is cancerous. Sometimes, a man-child comes home from the war in a coffin. Sometimes, a Fema trailor catches fire due to a leak in the propane tank and two people barely escape with their lives. Sometimes what is lost can not be replaced.

What do we tell these people who live with ongoing suffering?

We all have "stuff" we have to live with. That's a given. I want to be an encourager, I want people to know that God's grace is sufficient (and it is). But I also want to make darn sure they understand that God's grace is not some magic insecticide that will get rid of all their "ants".

I suspect some of those "ants" are around specifically to remind us of our continuing need for God's grace.


  1. OK, let's think about Jesus for a minute. Yes, he enjoyed life and had friends and went to parties. He was able to persuade people positively and he faced down Satan. But he also went hungry and spent whole nights alone praying and was betrayed by some of his most trusted friends. He didn't always like what the Father sent his way ("let this cup pass from me"). And his life on this earth ended in a lot of pain and anguish. So when we talk about God's grace, I think we are talking more about an awareness of his presence and a confidence of his compassion more than physical protection. Pain is real (contra Mary Baker Eddy) but it is not the victor.

    Re MOP, yes, I finished reading though it does get tedious in spots. But I found the concepts useful and they do integrate with my faith pretty well. Most significant for me was the interaction between person and personage. I checked my copy out from the library, so no marking the text for me. Maybe I can find a used copy and mark it up.

  2. little david--I agree with what you have said. I know, intellectually, that pain is a part of life, and I have never expected that God's grace was a protection from pain (I felt blessed that I did not have much pain in my life). I think with me, the deal is that I am now finding out experientially what I have known intellectually, that pain is a part of life, and it has been a difficult road for me. In other words, it has been far easier for me to shrug my shoulders at the pain of another and say "that is part of life" than it has been for me to accept that pain is part of MY life as well...

    maybe that does not make any sense...I was not real sure WHAT I was trying to say in this post. Perhaps I should have thought it through a little more.

    MOP -- Lucky you, that the library had a copy. Ours didn't. I did see several used copies on Amazon, but I have not ever ordered used books off the Internet. I am looking for another old book, Prayer, by George Buttrick. I may test the waters and try ordering that one used (it's out of print,that will be the only way I will get it!)

  3. Yes, yes, annie, it does make sense. I too have been remarkably free of pain in my life (OK, there was that ruptured disk that made it impossible to sit for several months until I had surgery). And I have friends all around me who have been through (or are now struggling with) cancer. Say, have you wept with anyone lately? It just dawned on me how cleansing that is, to comforter and sufferer alike. I highly recommend it. Find someone in worse shape than you, hold them, and cry together. There's nothing like it.

    I have ordered used books from Amazon before and got what I needed. Go ahead.

  4. Thank you Annie, that's a beautiful post.....and God's grace is always sufficient, and He is indeed merciful. And I am tired and going to bed......and will ponder this some more. And yes, thank you.

  5. What's MOP? Did I miss a post? I like Yancey's take on the subject matter; and think you've handled it well here, yourself, Annie. I'm nearing the end of a Dave Miller book where he tells a group of Bible students he is about to explain the Gospel while leaving one very important part out. They are, of course, to identify the missing part. After two pages or so of theology, they agree it is a great outline, but cannot determine his omission. His omission?...not once did he ever mention Jesus! I must admit (It was late! My brain was numb at the time!...I didn't catch it either. Too often, however, it's who we are. We know all the doctrines. We just haven't touched the hem of His garment.......

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  7. (Deleted the last comment because I had typos in it!)

    little david, The ruptured disk sounds painful. I hope it is now doing well. Yes, it is cleansing to to sit and cry with another. And I am getting better at allowing myself to be open enough to do that. And truly, there are LOTS of folks that have worse troubles than I.

    Ayekah, Thanks. I hope you are resting up.

    Jim, MOP = Meaning of Persons by Paul Tournier. I think I quoted from in not too long ago. It's an older book. I enjoyed it, but I have a hard time explaining it!

    We know all the doctrines. We just haven't touched the hem of His garment.......

    and what an empty place that is...

  8. In seminary, there was a student who was just brilliant. His first report in an OT Prophets class was full of references to scholarly works. He quoted German exegetes effortlessly. Then the teacher gave his critique. "You have failed this assignment. The task at hand is not to report on what the scholars have said. The task is to enter into dialogue with the Bible." We were stunned (and heeded the warning).

    When I read the Bible, it is always very tempting to think out how I would teach this passage or to dig out the concordance and do a comparative study of the vocabulary. It is then that I must disobey my academic lusts and simply drink in the scriptures and listen for God to guide me into his message for me.

  9. Annie! Its great you are back! Sorry it took me so long to come and find you again. I really like what you had to say in this post. There is so much crap out there right now teaching people that if they believe enough and give enough then God will magically remove all their hardships.

    Tain't so, McGee!

  10. little david--There is a difference, isn't there?

    Rach--I am glad to be back! I agree. My youngest daughter, out of rank curiousity (I guess) sent off for some "holy water" and just today she got a new letter with several pennies taped to the top, and instructions on what to do with the pennies along with the note that she needed to send a seed donation of twenty dollars before the guy told her what the rest of what God was supposedly telling him about her! No telling how much more mail we will get from them.


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