Grace Boot Camp

This is by no means the definitive tome on grace- but it’s a start. I’ve riffed on this before here in my blogs but today someone needs it today,  deeply, so here we go.

I’ve a friend who is in need of some peace. The needs include answers to difficult issues regarding family, finances and essential security. All of this is linked to faith in God, the ability to correctly hear His voice, and of course provision.

If one is biologically prone to anxiety and depression, there are brain chemistry issues and not only spiritual matters of faith involved.

Does any of this remind you of anyone you know… or sometimes are?

Full disclosure- I rarely get depressed. I get angry or fall into self-pity but rarely classic, dark depression. And yep, I know sometimes anger or self-pity are the surface symptoms of a depressed state, understood. And no, we’re not talking politics at the moment…

In that by God’s grace we exist, breathe and suffer (yes, that’s not a typo) and in that God is real, never lies, and we don’t always believe either due to pain and suffering in life on this planet, well what of grace when the pain is unbearable? What if “boot camp” kills us before we get to the “real” battle?

Grace (God’s UNmerited, UNearned FAVOR) does not always look nor feel like grace. It sometimes feels like a cross. Or several of them, even simultaneously. Sigh…

If you’re like me you couldn’t wait to finally get out of school. Later you realize you never graduate… the lessons keep coming whether you like them or not, if you do or do not appreciate the Potter molding the clay via difficult events and being involved with difficult people.

Some of your prayers, sometimes what in your mind are THE MOST ESSENTIAL requests are apparently denied. God seems or truly is, silent. Now what?

Book of Job stuff- in his agony his friends treated him with anything like kind respect, his wife finally said “Why don’t you just curse God and die?”

Suffering loss, staring potential or actual mountains of financial debt in the face, the uncertainty of next week or the rest of your days due to illness, “natural” disasters (note, often described as “acts of God”) and any number of confusing signs, mixed advice from friends and enemies and your own nagging guilt with regard to actual or imaginary sin, all of this conspires against emotional peace and certainly doesn’t nurture us toward mental problem-solving and solutions. That is, not toward solutions that feel like the pond if not lake or ocean of -grace- you need. Or might they move us toward Jesus and saving faith if not practical eradication of the pain?

Still with me?

The battles are real, the mind is often a loop, a re-run of all this and in the end I will say there are at least (there are more but…) three major intersections to **consider.

In no particular order:

**We live in a fallen, imperfect world as imperfect, vulnerable creatures who cannot totally control -anything- and at times find controlling our own thoughts and emotions nearly impossible.

**Faith is a gift, in fact I would argue a gift of grace from God Who “…makes the sun shine and rain fall on the just and the unjust.” -Matthew 5.45

**Medication- whether prayer, music therapy, good coffee at a warm fire, a walk in the woods or self-destroying drugs, booze, porn or any number of addictions are matters of choice -and there are also fallen angels (biblical demons) at work to influence you away from God, His Word, His people and the lessons that give life to you for yourself as well as others. We do make decisions when tempted by the rotting self-“medication” or the nurturing people and tools to help us through the crawl-in-the-mud-dirt-under-barbed-wire-and-today-is-live-ammo-day-soldiering moments of life.

Those who do not experience the sufferings of this life have already died -only God Himself knows if the suffering for them is finished or unending.

The EMOTIONS, the FEELINGS won’t likely be magically fixed and vaporized but a theological and absolutely boots-on-the-ground practical matter is mentally clear as a bright day if you take a slow walk through the first chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.

Grace and reason has been poured into me again and again in this chapter!

https://www.bible.com/bible/100/2CO.1.nasb

Important note- the actual word “grace” is mentioned twice in the chapter, along with terms like peace, suffering, despair, death, consolation and joy. Real stuff, all of it. What has always moved me deeply yet not always ended my trauma’s or battles, bringing to light at least a part of God’s presence and work both in and through me are these words of Paul in verses three and four:

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Then for me, the kicker: (v.12) “For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”

For the amazing, entire chapter: https://www.bible.com/bible/100/PHP.4.NASB

So much of what is life-giving is to focus up and out, rather than inward. I do NOT mean to not love yourself, disregard self-care and healthy choices, rest and recreation, etc.. You may indeed benefit from spiritual direction, mentoring, a small group, recovery gatherings, prayer and Bible study and careful professional examination regarding chemical imbalances and such with regard to your mood and depression… I’ve been blessed with ALL of these and practice them except for medical treatment regarding mental issues having not needed it (so far). But please don’t miss this:

A. you’re not alone

and

B. you’re not on the planet for yourself

Last point in this bit of writ and then some thoughts on grace:

If grace truly does not always FEEL like favor and mercy, how do we “live by the grace of God”, or put another way, know we are living IN it, experiencing it in the midst of “live fire under barbed wire?” (apologies, I’m a lyricist, rhymes happen)

I pray because I must, search God’s Word the Bible daily because I must, share with spiritual friends regularly because I must, do recovery work and drink coffee and tea and walk in the garden because I must. Living is part of God’s plan for us. Faith is a gift but choosing these disciplines REGARDLESS OF MY FEELINGS is a must.

What I am absolutely certain of is that none of us exist on this rock merely for ourselves and the sooner we look up to God and outward to serving others the better.

We may be locked in a jail or prison cell or filthy rich in a penthouse with more money than Solomon but our relationship to Jesus and His people is the true, even eternal wealth, the rest is good and often pleasurable but it’s frosting, not nutrition.

Breathing is a gift. Faith is a gift. Walking alone or with the Lord and His people are gifts but also very much a matter of choice.

I deeply believe (SOOOO easy when all is going great, even fun and sometimes surprisingly sweet!) that we cannot earn God’s grace and mercy, but we can choose to share it with others even in and through suffering which all of us will experience in this life.

The worst of it is that some choose to suffer alone. You do NOT have to!

Paul makes amazing claims in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians, and in that chapter again mentions both suffering and God’s provision.

Tradition tells us he was executed for his faith by pagan Romans -yet he was not without God’s grace in life, in death and now in the presence of His Savior.

Glory to God for His unchanging GRACE toward us!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

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