Scripture Journal Challenge: Sufficient Grace

Today, before I sat down to write this post, I was out running errands and made a decision due to traffic to go through a parking lot I’ve avoided because of strong memories associated with Dominic.

I was suddenly overwhelmed by grief even after five years on this journey.

The tightness in my chest, tears in my eyes, empty sickness in the pit of my stomach washed over me anew.

Time absolutely does not heal a thing in child loss. It only enables me to develop skills for sublimating the horror enough to walk around among the spared.

But one thing IS better now than way back then: I’m quicker to lean into the strength and grace available to me through Christ Jesus. I’m not as resistant to the idea that my weakness is no impediment to God’s work in and through me.

I’ve stopped asking for relief and now ask for grace to bear up under the pain.

Today’s verses are taken from Paul’s pleading with God to take away what many believe to be a physical ailment-perhaps pain or weakness in his eyes-and God’s refusal to grant miraculous healing.

Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.” Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I can imagine Paul’s conversations with the Lord.

“You know I’m really on fire for You, Lord. Don’t you think I’d be in a better position to minister if You would take this pain away? It’s distracting and, well, painful! If You will heal me, I can focus on the work You’ve sent me to do. “

~ Paul

I know it’s dangerous to put words in God’s mouth but I imagine (based on Paul’s own account) that God answered something like this: “Paul, you don’t understand that part of the ministry I have for you is a demonstration that My strength is what sustains you. I don’t want there to be any doubt about where the power comes from. I’m not going to heal you but I will give you enough grace to bear up under this pain.”

I don’t think Paul really thought that was great idea-at least not at first. But as he continued to walk with the Lord and experience that sufficient grace, he saw God was absolutely right (no kidding!).

I can attest to this in my own life.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I was afflicted with a number of health problems that forced me to admit I was not capable of meeting every obligation to and certainly not every expectation of those around me.

I didn’t like it one single bit.

As a self-proclaimed overachiever it hurt my pride to ask for help. But God’s grace eventually worked it’s way into my heart and I learned that physical weakness was truly an opportunity to proclaim God’s provision and sufficiency.

When Dom left us, I was struck down in a whole new way.

But the grace I had learned to rely on for the strength needed to endure physical pain proved more than sufficient for even this awful heartache.

It is still enough.

God’s strength IS perfected in my weakness.

Not that my weakness makes God perfect. Instead it is my weakness that makes God’s strength undeniably and unmistakably obvious.

When I choose to reveal my brokenness, unveil my weakness and testify to God’s sustaining and enabling grace, I proclaim His sovereignty, His sufficiency and His love.

QUESTIONS:

  • When have you had to admit weakness?
  • How has God’s grace met you there?
  • Do you sometimes try to hide your brokenness? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think God is glorified when we allow others to see our weakness?
  • Can you list specific instances when you felt too weak to continue and God’s grace enabled you to journey on?

PRAYER:

Lord, my pride makes me loathe to admit my weaknesses and to reveal my brokenness. I would rather people think I’m strong and unbreakable. But that’s just not true.

Help me embrace my own limitations and turn to You for your limitless grace and mercy. Help me quickly acknowledge that it is Your Spirit that breathes life into my heart and soul and strengthens me to carry on.

Strip me of false pride and bravado that might conceal how very much I rely on You. Make my life an open declaration of Your sufficient grace.

Amen.

You think, dear heart, that you are forgotten because of your nothingness and weakness and poverty. This is the very reason you are remembered.

Spurgeon

New Year’s Prayer for Hurting Hearts

Some of us enter trembling through the door of a new year. 

This last year wasn’t so good and our hearts are broken.

What if the next year is worse?  How will we manage?  Where can we hide from bad news, bad outcomes, disastrous trauma?

Truth is, we can’t.  

So here we are, bravely marching in, hanging on to hope and begging God for mercy.  

Father God,

I admit that I am scared.  No matter how many times I read or someone reads to me, “Fear not!” my heart screams, “Easy for YOU to say!”  I know deep down that You are here.  I know that nothing happens without You seeing.  But I am still trembling.  

Help me feel Your Presence.  Help me hold onto the hem of Your garment.  Help me reach out and take possession of the promises You give me-to guide, carry and strengthen me.  When I am weak, You are strong.  If I forget everything else, don’t let me forget that.

Lord, even if no new disaster takes shape in the months to come, I’m left holding the broken pieces of a broken life and I am oh, so tired of plodding through my days trying to put it all back together.  Bring light into the dark corners.  Bring hope into the desperate places.  Bring tangible help to my doorstep so I can find a little rest in these weary days, weeks, months.

Whatever this year brings, You are already there. 

You know the end from the beginning.  Nothing takes You by surprise.  

And when I want to give up and give in, speak courage to my soul.  Lift my head and help my heart hold on.  ❤

strength made perfect in weakness ant

 

Grace Quotes

I need to remind my heart on a regular basis that grace covers it all-every mistake, every sin,  every need, every. single. thing.

Because if it doesn’t, then it’s not grace at all.

So here are some of my favorite quotes about grace. 

They help me hang on when my heart wants to let go.  They help me hear my Father’s voice when my ears are full of condemnation and guilt.  They help me recognize truth when the hater of my soul fills my head with lies.

grace is a blanket of hope

 

Every time you fall down, at the bottom of every hole is grace. Grace waits in broken places. Grace waits at the bottom of things. Grace loves you when you are at your darkest worst, and wraps you in the best light. Grace seeps through the broken places and seeps into the lowest places, a balm for wounds.

~Ann Voskamp

grace-is-what-we-need-in-the-dark

 

The gospel is not just an evangelistic principle; it is a message that gets you out of bed in the morning. The sovereignty of God is not some debatable proposition; it is the assurance that your child’s death is not a meaningless accident. Grace is not simply a word in a hymn; it’s the very thing you rely on when you are so bereaved that you cannot imagine living another day. Faith is not just a cliche’ term for religion, it is the thing that picks you up off the carpet where you have been crying for over an hour.

~Cameron Cole, Therefore I Have Hope

grace-sufficient

What else can I do but keep praying to You even when I feel dark; to keep writing about You even when I feel numb; to keep speaking Your name even when I feel alone. Come, Lord Jesus come. Have mercy on me, a sinner.

-Henri Nouwen

grace lifeline to hope

My faith demands that I face the uncertainty of the future in the confidence that in any meeting of affliction, I am held by the tether of God’s grace. My way is well known to my Master, and therefore I walk in confidence. No testing will come that will not be accompanied by sustaining grace. If I failed to believe that, I would be impoverished beyond measure and would deny the truthfulness and example of Scripture. God’s provision has been adequate in the past; it will be adequate in the future. The secret of our courage lies in our confidence that the future is controlled by the providence of a sovereign God.

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

wil take grace sustain

Courage Requires Vulnerability

 

It’s a funny thing. 

If you’ve never faced anything very frightening, it’s easy to think that those who do and march on through are somehow immune to fear.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.  

courage is resistance to fear

Yet you cannot master something you deny.  You cannot resist that which you claim doesn’t exist.

Child loss is frightening. 

So frightening that those not forced to walk this road usually choose to pretend (in practice if not in words) that it simply isn’t part of the world they live in.

It’s so frightening that most bereaved parents experience a period of time we would describe as “being numb” and “shock”.

It was probably six months until my heart truly understood the fact that Dominic was not coming back.

Ever. 

It was frightening on so many levels-I had to face the fact I was not in control, had to face the fact my life was never going to be what I had envisioned it to be, face the fact that my surviving children would be shaped by grief in ways neither I nor they could anticipate, face the fact that I would live out my years carrying this heavy burden, and face the fact that no matter how hard I wished things were different, they were never going to be different-my child was dead.

sometimes even to live is an act of courage

And when the numbness began to wear off and fear creep into my heart, I had to choose: Was I going to embrace and experience this awful, devastating fear or was I going to try to deny it, distract myself from it or try to dismiss it as inconsequential?

Facing fear requires facing my own weakness.

Facing fear means becoming vulnerable-admitting that I am hurting, admitting that I cannot do this on my own, admitting that maybe, just maybe, I can’t climb this mountain without help.

cant get to courage without walking through vulnerability

Choosing vulnerability was its own challenge.

What if others mocked me?  What if no one helped me?  What if I just wasn’t up to the task?

courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen brene brown

I decided that NOT facing fear was not an option.  As long as it lurked in the shadows I would be its prisoner.  

So I turned and looked it square in the eyes.  And I found, with God’s enabling help, I could master that fear. 

Two verses became my touchstone:

When struck by fear,
    I let go, depending securely upon You alone.
   In God—whose word I praise—
    in God I place my trust. I shall not let fear come in,
    for what can measly men do to me? 

Psalm 56:3-4 VOICE

When I admitted my weakness, His strength was sufficient.

strength made perfect in weakness ant

Choosing vulnerability and facing fear opens the door for God to show His power in and through me. 

Child loss is still scary.  

I’m still afraid.

But the Lord gives me strength to master the fear.  

courage doesn't always roar male liion

 

 

Strong or Weak? How Labels Harm the Hurting

Labels and categories can be helpful.  When cruising the grocery aisles I’m thankful for the signs that point the way to “vegetables” or “baking needs”.

But labels can be harmful when applied to people.

Read the rest here:  Strong or Weak? How Labels Harm the Hurting

Broken, But Not Beyond Repair

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

~children’s rhyme

Shattered beyond repair-that certainly describes my broken heart in the first days, weeks and months after Dominic’s leaving.

I felt like Humpty Dumpty.

bag-of-fragments

The pieces were too small to find, much less glue back together in anything resembling wholeness.

And the essence of the “old me”-the person that existed before loss-was spilled onto the ground, leaking strength and life and joy into the dry earth.

Humpty Dumpty had no hope-the king’s men and horses were powerless to breathe life into the lifeless bits and pieces that were left.

But I don’t have to depend on the king’s men or the king’s horses.  

I have access to the King Himself.

I am not separated by a veil from the Mercy Seat.

I can come boldly before the Throne of Grace and pile my broken life on the Altar of Hope.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Hebrews 4:16 MSG

The One Who made me can remake me.

He IS remaking me.

I have no illusions that the cracks won’t show.

But I am trusting that my new fragility will make me both more grace-filled and more grace dependent.   

grace-sufficient

 

 

 

 

 

Fragile

If you’ve ever had major surgery you know that the outside looks whole way before the inside is healed.

That’s how it is with grief–those of us who have lost a child appear to be strong–we have to be, because life doesn’t stop.

Not even for burying a child.

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.  And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Sometimes the process can be a matter of seconds, the only evidence a blank stare or a single tear.  Other times the memories and the forceful return to the here and now unleashes a flood from my eyes and ends my usefulness for that day.

Either way, it’s exhausting. 

I think that might be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for me.  When it strikes hard (as it still does sometimes) it robs me of energy and the desire to do anything.

I am a “get-it-done” kind of person.  But there’s no way to get grief “done”.  It works itself out in its own time and in its own way.

I can position my mind and my heart to heal by focusing on the promises of God in Scripture.  But I cannot hurry along the healing.

And healing, when it comes, will always be incomplete this side of heaven.

Please don’t mistake the fact that I can stand straight and look strong as proof that I am recovered. 

I am often frightened and sometimes I want to hide.

But vulnerable and wounded, I remain until God calls me home.

“In His feathers He shall deliver you and under His wings you shall have refuge; His truth shall surround you as a supply of armor.”

Psalm 91:4