130. Grace? What’s That?

Just because I know something doesn’t mean I understand it. I sometimes know things without really knowing them.

God’s grace—his patient, undeserved help—is greater than my faults. I know that. Sometimes, however, when my life gets a little rough, it’s hard for me to know it. Grace is easy to acknowledge, but so hard to understand.

Last week was a rough one. I considered providing an exhaustive list of reasons why, but I’ll spare my readers the nasty details. By the time I awoke on Saturday morning, I felt truly awful.

Do you know who else spent a lot of time feeling truly awful? The Apostle Paul. He had it rough. Dash it all, did he have it rough. Paul was repeatedly mistreated, flogged, imprisoned and shipwrecked. He suffered from hunger, cold, sleep deprivation and unbearable stress. These are just a few of the sufferings he mentions in his letters, and there were probably some he didn’t mention.

Out of all these afflictions, Paul found one truly insufferable. He called it a thorn in his flesh. Whatever it was, Paul hated it. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me,” he wrote. The Apostle Paul, the legendary missionary, couldn’t take it anymore. He pleaded with God again and again to take away his problem.

At last, God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I hate being weak. I’m a faulty, imperfect person adrift in a faulty, imperfect world, and I don’t like it. My usual response is to try to be perfect—or at least, to try to be good enough.

I’m not good enough. I’ve never been, and I’ll never be. I have rough weeks. I get tired and sick and worried and depressed. I make mistakes. No matter how I try, I can’t fit my life into clean, tidy little boxes.

On Saturday, I came closer to understanding something I’ve known for a long time. God’s grace is greater than my mistakes and weaknesses. When I’m not perfect, God is. When I can’t go on, God carries me.

That gives me hope.

I try to wrap up these spiritual blog posts with neat little lessons, but not this time. I haven’t resolved anything. After years of struggling with the same problems, I keep struggling. I’ve written blog posts about these issues and related ones—the same problems again and again and again and again.

I’ve been making mistakes for twenty-two and a half years. If God hasn’t given up on me yet, I mustn’t give up on myself—and I certainly mustn’t give up on him.

I sometimes don’t understand God’s grace, and I often don’t feel it. There are days and weeks when the universe seems particularly empty of meaning, peace or hope.

Even so, I believe God’s grace is sufficient for me. My business isn’t to be good enough, but to trust and to hope and to persevere.

Do I understand God’s grace?

No.

Does it often seem absent?

Yes.

Do I believe God’s grace is always there, and always sufficient for me?

Yes, yes I do.

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