Grace can be uncomfortable and that is hard to accept sometimes.
We often only categorize grace with relief or release. For example, as a Christian, I am saved by grace which means I have been released from the condemnation of the Law.
And let me tell you, that is quite a relief.
Sometimes even when we pray for those who are ailing, we say “Lord, be gracious to them.” What we are praying for in fact is for some measure of relief from suffering.
I am not saying we shouldn’t pray those prayers but what if the suffering is a means of grace?
Grace is defined as “unmerited, undeserved favor from God.” In other words, when we talk about God’s grace applied toward the Christian it means that God has a favorable disposition towards them because of the finished work of Jesus. As Christians, we owe not only our salvation but our very lives to God’s grace.
Grace is where we live.
Yet as life experience tells you, living in this “favor” isn’t always easy. We have difficulty. We get cancer. We lose our jobs. Our families go off the deep end and leave us scratching our head wondering what went wrong.
We experience all kinds of pain and suffering and to be real, it only intensifies once you become a Christian. Jesus didn’t mince words when he said in John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation” and nor did the Apostle Paul who said in Philippians 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
Suffering is part of life but when it happens does it mean that you have fallen out of God’s grace?
I remember meeting with a Christian brother who was going through an intense season of difficulty. After a bit of sharing, he concluded mournfully saying, “I guess I have fallen out of God’s grace.” In which I reminded him gently, 1) He wasn’t in hell right now and 2) This suffering is means of grace.
How is that possible? Because God’s grace is not only for release or relief but to grow and develop Christ-likeness in you. God is so gracious that the suffering or the difficulty that you are enduring is not purposeless. Rather it is a means to give you Christian character and to demonstrate God’s redemptive power in your life.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul speaks of a “thorn in the flesh” and how he prayed three times for it to be removed. We are unsure what precisely that “thorn” was, (whether it was a physical malady or something else) but we do know why he was given it: The “thorn” was used to keep him humble.
Now I usually stop here and wonder what if God answered Paul’s prayer? What if God immediately gave relief and removed Paul’s “thorn”?
No one would dispute that a prayer answered is a terrible thing but I believe if it was answered, Paul would have missed out on something even better than just a temporary relief from affliction.
He most certainly would have missed out on the lesson of humility that God was trying to teach him but he would also miss out on what was said in verse 8.
“But he [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8).
Through Paul’s suffering, the grace and power of the Lord Jesus Christ were profoundly experienced. Although his body was failing him and the circumstances around him were falling apart, grace was sustaining and keeping him together. In addition, in that moment of difficulty, the very power of Christ was resting upon him (1 Cor. 12:9).
Again, that would have been missed if he was removed instantly from trouble.
What about us? Be reminded that even though we face trials and tribulations of varying degrees, that doesn’t mean that God has ceased to be gracious to us. In fact, in the suffering, God is manifesting his grace in a profound way by strengthening your faith and empowering you to be more like Jesus.
So instead of us running away from difficulty and crying out for an immediate escape, let us embrace the uncomfortable grace.