Grace in the Gray

As I write this, I have been angry for 94% of the day. I’d rather not go into why (partially because it makes me look petty and odd), but suffice it to say that I wasn’t in the mood to write, and I particularly wasn’t in the mood to write anything uplifting. However, I refuse to write something here that will in no way benefit and/or encourage you, so I began to flip through my notes and my Bible, and I found something marvelous to share with you guys.

It all started with the first line in my notes. When Alan said that there are weeks in life filled with gray, I wrote “grace” instead.

I believe this is a wink from God because today, let alone this week, hasn’t seemed very graceful. Nothing about it apart from my loving mother and a very nice nap earlier seems to have any part in grace.

So I began flipping through my Bible and came across a small devotional in the back. It says that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a prisoner in Germany during World War II and a Lutheran pastor, wrote in his journal not too long before his execution in 1945, “Lord, whatever this day may bring, thy Name be praised.”

That’s coming from a man who was oppressed and executed by Nazis, and I’ve been upset for most of this day simply because I want to be.

The scripture that was with this devotion was Psalm 145:9, which reads, “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made” (NRSV).

It’s hard to accept that when we feel like nothing is going our way or when we’re so upset, regardless of the reasons why, that we just want to avoid the world and stay in bed all day. It’s difficult to see grace when all we see is gray.

Have I felt incredibly loved by God today? No, I haven’t. But why not?  I woke up this morning and ate breakfast. I got to spend my day however I wanted to. Nothing truly terrible happened to me or anyone I love. I got to live in freedom. Sure, some things might’ve gone differently than I would’ve liked recently, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care for me. The fact that I don’t feel God’s undying love doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

One of my sincerest hopes in running this blog is that I’m very transparent with you, dear readers. I want you to understand that I’m a real person who messes up daily and struggles just as much as you and probably with the very same things that you struggle with.

I talk a lot about the love of God and how vast and beautiful it is because it means so much to me. I would be a completely different person without it. And I think it’s great that you guys have this chance to see that sometimes I forget all about it or that sometimes I even feel far from it.

My day was filled with gray, but it was also filled with grace. I didn’t treat God or people the way I should have today, but God and others have shown me nothing but grace. They’ve looked past it or forgiven me for it. They haven’t treated me the way that I deserved to be treated, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m grateful that they’ve met me with kindness and mercy instead of anger and fairness.

Gray and grace aren’t mutually exclusive. They often go together; we’re simply too shortsighted to see one in the presence of the other. Grace can come and consequences will still have to be faced, and gray can come with some positives. That’s not to say that each don’t come separately. It’s just that they can coexist.

I hope that you’ve had a better day than me, and I hope that you’ll remember this the next time your day isn’t so fantastic. I pray that you would remember that God loves you and cares for you even when you don’t feel that way. And I pray that you’ll always find grace when you’re surrounded by gray.

P.S.- I wrote a post recently that touched on rain much like Alan did in his sermon, and I think they go fairly well together. Here is the post if you care to read it: Seasons.

By Carrie Prevette

Seasons

I’m pretty done with summer. As a person who usually runs hot anyway, the past two or three months have been uncomfortable to say the least. I’m ready for fall, for the entire three or four weeks we’ll have where it actually feels like fall and not winter. Yes, three weeks where it’s not terribly hot or terribly cold. I’m eagerly awaiting the season change.

While I’m waiting for the seasons of weather and nature to change, others are waiting for their seasons of life to change.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV) reads, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? I can’t think of a single aspect of life that Solomon didn’t cover here.

For me, this scripture is usually a comfort. Whenever I think about the hard times I’m going through, I recall this scripture and think, “It’s okay. It’s just a season.” I think of how seasons flow into one another so seamlessly, and I remember that whatever I find myself in, I will eventually find myself out of it.

But what if we get stuck? What if we find a rut in one of those seasons and we just sort of stay there?

Unlike seasons of weather, the seasons of life don’t have a specific date or point where they switch, and they don’t all last the same amount of time. Your season to kill may only last a month, but your season of love may last a year before changing. So before you write yourself off as being stuck, consider that maybe your season is just lasting longer than you would like.

That being said, I do believe it’s possible to get stuck in a certain season, and that could very well happen to anyone.

We’re always presented with choices and opportunities, and if we’re in a season (more than likely a bad one) and we take our eyes off of God or make choices that drive us away from Him instead of towards Him, we’ve lost any sort of momentum that’ll pull us out of it. God’s hope and love are what guide us from one season to another, and if we lose sight of those, we may just be left where we are until we find them again.

During Alan’s sermon on Sunday, three different Disciple songs came to my mind, and I’m going to share them with you because I think each discusses a key part in changing seasons.

The first song that came to mind was “Thousand Things.” It’s a song about finding God in everything, and the chorus goes:

‘Cause, Lord, if You showed me a thousand things
Brand new about You every day
I still would never see the fullness of Your glory
And, Lord, if You gave me a thousand years
To try and count up all the ways
That You have shown to me that You are just not enough
You are too much.

Believe me when I say that God won’t leave you. He never has, and He never will. So if you feel like He has, it’s your perception that’s changed. I assure you that He’s there. It may not feel like it or look like it, but He is. You’re the most precious thing He’s ever created. He’s not going to leave you when you need Him most.

We’ve discussed the idea of God’s grace being enough a lot here lately, and I don’t believe that’s an accident or a coincidence. I think God’s really trying to teach someone this. God’s grace is pure and abundant and powerful. It shouldn’t be underestimated or undervalued. And if we look, we’ll find it everywhere because God is everywhere.

That leads me directly to the second Disciple song, which is titled “Worth the Pain.” I want to point to two different parts of the song here. There are two lines in the chorus that proclaim, “It’s worth the pain / God’s in the rain.” The bridge of the song says:

There’s grace
When you’re at your wits end
Begging for it
He’ll take you by the hand
There’s grace.

This song means a great deal to me because it helped me cope with a really difficult time in my life. I was struggling with school and my father had cancer. And it showed me that even when it’s all dark and troublesome and pouring rain, God’s there. It also reminded me that rain isn’t always a bad thing. It can be refreshing, and it helps things grow.

If you’re struggling, remember that the rain you’re experiencing now is growing you to not only outlast the problems you face now, but it’s also preparing you for conquering other things you’ll eventually face. And even though it’s not fun, there’s a purpose, and God is there. He’s right there in it with you.

The last song that came to mind was “Lay My Burdens,” and it is about exactly what you would think it’s about. It’s about someone who is tired and tired of carrying his/her burdens. Exhausted, this person turns to God to lay down the burdens, to rest, and to be revived.

Sometimes a season in life just wipes us out, and sometimes it starts to weigh us down. It doesn’t make sense that we insist on carrying around things that harm us, but we do. We let it drag us down and pull us around in pointless circles.

What if we stopped letting it control us and let God take control? Instead of carrying that baggage and trouble into the next season of life, lay it down at God’s feet. And while you’re there, pick up some of His love, peace, and joy. It’s all plentiful, but I’m sure you’ll find that it’s all very lightweight.

I trust that you’re ready for the next season for your life, and I hope you’ll take the lessons you learned in this season with you. Remember that God won’t leave you, that His grace will always be readily available, and that God wants to take your burdens from you to fill your life with only the best things. Yes, there is a season for everything, but you’ll never have to go through a single season alone.

By Carrie Prevette

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