Monday, October 18, 2010

Reflection on Grace

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
(Job 1:12-13)

God is great. God is good. He is faithful to provide for His children. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that every good thing that we have is “from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Even when it we don’t seem to be getting what we want, it’s worth remembering that we still have some blessings from God. If you feel tempted to think that He has forgotten you in your affliction, just remember that the very breath with which you pour out your complaints to Him is granted by Him. He hasn’t forgotten you, but you may well have forgotten His goodness to you.

That is one of the things that I’ve learned to wrestle with. Even though God has given me innumerable blessings that I could never in a million years deserve, sometimes He chooses to withhold something that I fervently desire, and He is perfectly just in doing so. God isn’t obligated to give me anything, for His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways than my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and those who think they can just name and claim whatever they want from Him have completely missed the point of God’s grace. Why should He give any of us health or wealth or even the most basic of our needs? The fact that He chooses to do so despite our unworthiness is a testimony to His grace and mercy, [f]or he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). I think Saint Augustine said it best when he wrote in his Confessions, “Grant what you command, and command what you will” (Book 10, ch. 28).

The past few months have been quite taxing, but I’m not complaining. He is passing me through the fire, so that I would be purified and refined like silver and gold (Malachi 3:3). And I know that even if all these things pass away from my grasp, I still have Him, and that is sufficient:

When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

For those of us who trust in Christ, this is the promise that is given to us: That even though there will be times when He appears to be far from us, He is actually there in the fire along with us, just as He was in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And whatever be the case, these are only temporary trials, which shall soon be done away with when we are received up into glory. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Closing prayer (from the Valley of Vision):

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from
deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
Thy stars shine;

Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty
Thy glory in my valley.

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