May 5 marked my daughter’s 12th birthday. She passed away several years ago, but we celebrate still.
In the heart of tradition, our family gathers ’round. Hands joined. Heads bowed. Tears escape. Prayers whispered. Balloons released. Quiet.
We often associate grace with that which is pleasant. The gift of salvation from a loving God to a less-than-deserving people, the parent who gladly receives home their wayward child, the man who forgives his wife of an adulterous relationship, the boss who extends leniency to a recovering addict, the mother who cradles a healthy baby in her arms after years of infertility.
This is grace.
But what of the hard things? The child who lives under the constant scrutiny of a father’s disapproval, the young man whose parents have forever disowned him, the husband who signs papers through tear-stained eyes, the woman whose momentary relapse cost her job, the young newlywed who will never conceive a child of her own.
Are there not patterns of grace woven throughout?
John Newton, the author of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace,” once penned these words:
“Afflictions are useful, and in a degree necessary, to keep alive in us a conviction of the vanity and unsatisfying nature of the present world, and all its enjoyments; to remind us that this world is not our rest, and to call our thoughts upwards, where our true treasure is, and where our heart ought to be.”
There is a longing for heaven that erupts in our hearts, in the aftermath of adversity. We become increasingly aware that this present world is not our true home. That which once satisfied, now leaves a void. We struggle to find balance between yearning for home, and discovering contentment.
Yet, I’m convinced that our eyes would not comprehend the beauty before us, if not for the darkness behind. The sun shines the brightest on the heels of the longest night. The sea’s calm boasts the loudest in the wake of a raging storm. The spring adorns her beauty most magnificently on the peak of a barren winter.
Perhaps Paul says it best in his letter to the Corinthians: “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then. See it as clearly as God sees us; knowing Him directly as He knows us!” (1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message).
There is a beauty that cannot be seen, except through the lens of affliction. One has a greater appreciation of the sweet, only after they’ve tasted the bitter.
Is this not all grace?
Some of the most impressive people I have known are those that have not only endured adversity, but came to embrace it. They sought to recover the gift that oft lies behind the agony. Like Jacob, they wrestled with God until they received the blessing. Theirs was a relentless pursuit of grace. Beautiful, painful grace.
Back at home, the children dance with excitement as they watch their carefully chosen balloons make their journey heavenward. Laughter explodes. Dresses twirl. Clouds part. Hope springs. Faith rises. Grace.
All of this – grace.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”
Rachel Lee is the ministry director at New Life Foursquare Church. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.