Mysterious Grace

I sat with a friend over tea this week - both of us reflecting on God's sovereignty in our journeys.  We discussed the grace of many joys in the journey and the crooks in the path.  But the mystery that drew our hearts together was the grace of pain in our lives.

We are apt to say a resolute, "God is good!" when our prayers are answered according to how we have prayed.  We are apt to give thanks when all is going swimmingly.  But what about when "tragedy" falls from heaven into our hands?  What about an answer to prayers that brings our human hearts grief and pain?  What about the removal of a gift, talent, resource, person, or something good in our lives?  Are we actually grateful FOR the tragedy itself?  Is God praiseworthy then?

I don't see too many of us announcing, "My dad died today, God is good!"  Maybe that seems harsh and uncompassionate.  For the pain associated with grief doesn't move us to respond with immediate joy.  Nor should it.  I guess that's why the Bible says, "Joy comes in the morning," meaning, there is a time period called "night."  And some nights are longer and darker than others.

However, my question remains, if God is good (all the time), if He is governing all the world He created with mere breath of words and thoughts, if He is ordaining everything in our lives, then, is all He does, for our joy and initial pain, a Grace?

I look back at many, many sad circumstances in my past and see the graces that have flowed out of them.

I see the beautiful fruit and flowers that have bloomed 
out of the dung pile. 

I see the new growth out of the ashes, the joy of babies born after arduous labor, the green after the rain - nature itself is filled with word pictures of life because of death, 
beauty from disaster.  


These are recognizable and awesome to us.  They point to the utter sovereignty of a good God reigning over a fallen and diseased world of sin.  God is so redemptive, therefore, Gracious.

So perhaps what we wrestle with, then, is not that God isn't redemptive and good, but the juxtaposition of His goodness with our pain when sojourning on His crooked path.  When He sends disease, discomfort, death, destruction, discipline - with what lens do we perceive the circumstance?  Do we say, "well, God ALLOWED it to happen"?  But, doesn't that imply that He could stop it but didn't?  Or perhaps, He isn't caring enough to stop it?  Or, He isn't sovereign enough to stop it?  Or, maybe I haven't been obedient enough so He is punishing me by not stopping it, or by not giving me my request?

If I believe God is sovereignly hand-picking my circumstances, then, the buck stops with Him.  Because He chose to grace me with this trial, will I keep Him at arms length because He's scary? Or will I count it all joy, knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance?  Will I embrace the fact that He is Creator God, Lover of my soul, Weaver of me in my mother's womb, Author of each day of my life before there was one of them?

This leads me to ponder the mystery of Grace:  God ordains all circumstances AND He is good.  And Grace is painful.  Grace points to my sin and Grace points me to the Cross.  And all of this points back to original sin:  Satan wanting to be God and wanting to be worshiped and glorified as the Highest Being.  This is the sin of fallen earth; the sin that darkens every cell of my being: self-worship and wanting to govern my life according to my plan.

So, it is a GRACE that God deeply wounds us, binds our wounds, sets us on a new path, puts our feet in a large place and saves us from self-worship and utter spiritual destruction.

Grace.  All is Grace:  gain AND loss; joy AND mourning; health AND disease; life AND death.

When we open our hands and receive His graces willingly, perhaps that's when we can post the "God is good" sign, right away, in the midst of the initial shock and pain, regardless of what He brings. Soli Deo Gloria.

God Works in a Mysterious Way
    God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm. 

    Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.

    Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.

    His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.

     Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.


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