Thursday, June 30, 2016

This Grace in Which We Stand

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)


I had forgotten how freely and intimately conversations flowed among women at Family Retreats.[i] There were several that left me stunned. For fifty-one weeks of the year, I had kept my business my own and had carefully maintained the façade that all was well, that I had it together. But I had learned two years ago that family retreat was a different environment. Here, many felt safe to share what they could not at home. Here, no one had to have it all together. In one-on-one conversations, in small groups, in the craft circle, fellow moms opened up about exhausting caregiving of medically fragile children, about their mental health challenges, about marginalization in their churches, about deep loneliness in their marriages and communities. Retreat gave us all one week of respite, a sense of belonging, and a place to be heard and where our stories were valued. For me as a black woman, Family Retreat has been that one week where every barrier I normally face is broken down. Reentry each year back into our routines, even back to our communities of faith, can be rough. Little will have changed with our circumstance, and it’s a fight of faith to hold on to the message of hope and joy in Christ fed to our hearts in word and deed.

So what is our comfort in this crucible that is daily life with disability? It is in what we know to be true: It is our security in our standing with God, which gives us strength and perspective in suffering. It is also our hope, which gives us joy in trials and propels us to persevere. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow!

Our greatest comfort is that we have God himself. As believers, we have peace with God and access to his grace through Jesus Christ. We are secure in that position. He has given us the right to draw near. We have the aid and the faithful ear of the very one who designed and allows the trial. With suffering, he gives his presence and the comfort of his promises to enable us to endure. Charles Spurgeon says, “He is more present than friend or relative can be, yea, more nearly present than even the trouble itself.”[ii]

Our steadfastness (patient endurance) in suffering and trials is grounded in the steadfastness of Christ. We can be certain of his promises because of his character of faithfulness and love. Our footing and position now are sure, because God himself keeps us safe and secure. Trials and suffering, however overwhelming they may seem, come packaged in his grace to stand and withstand. Whatever the intention of the enemy, we know that God is using suffering to work endurance and his character in us. It is his designed means for our sanctification and perseverance in the faith.

God ordains that that our trials work together to mold us into the image of Christ.  His aim is to perfect us, and the chisel used to shape, mold, and define is often suffering.  But He gives the examples of saints who have gone before and the vision of our glorious end to give strength to our weary minds and bodies. In the midst of trials, he assures us that they are momentary pains that bring eternal benefits.

Therefore, we choose to rejoice. We look ahead with hope to the promised culmination—union with Christ, and an end to all suffering for our loved ones and ourselves. We look at the journey we now travel with the perspective of the promises that he will carry us, he will never abandon us to the trials of this life, but will use them, even strengthen us through them. We need never be ashamed in suffering because we know we are always loved and carried by God.

Therefore, we press on with the patience and endurance he will faithfully give. We do not trod alone or in our own strength. We cry out to our accessible God for grace. Annie Johnson Flint, a wheelchair user severely impaired by rheumatoid arthritis and cancer was well acquainted with both suffering and the faithfulness of God. Writing at the turn of the century, she penned what she had learned firsthand of God’s inexhaustible grace in her poem, He Giveth More Grace.[iii] May God press these truths into our hearts as well.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure;
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.


PRAY:  Lord, you see our burdens and suffering--all that makes our families different and inconvenient to others, all our struggles we try to hide, all that weighs heavily on our bodies and minds. Remind our hearts that you are near. Incline your ear to our cries. Remind us that you give no trial without the grace to bear it. Come to our aid! Give us joy, peace, and hope in you. Amen.




[i]  Joni and Friends Ministry’s annual family retreats for families affected by disability.
[ii] http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps046.php
[iii] http://preceptaustin.org/annie's_poems.htm

2 comments:

  1. So encouraging and poignant for my journey and several family members right now. Thank you.

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    1. That's really good to know, Denie. Praise God. May He continue to encourage your hearts with the truth of his word.

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