Grace in the Dark

graceBut you are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. You were chosen to tell about the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Ponder It.

  • When have you experienced oppressing or frightening darkness?
  • How has darkness intrigued you in a situation? How has darkness frightened you?
  • What is a shadowy area of your life that needs God’s grace?

Receive It. Grace meets us in the darkness, which can be a frightening place. The night-time can be beautiful, but most of its beauty comes from the results of a light source. We see the aura of the moon or the twinkling of the starts; we see the patterns of glistening light as the moon shines catches water drops or fluttering leaves. Most of us don’t live somewhere that is void of light. Even if we close ourselves into a dark room, it’s difficult to shut out all light sources, and if we do, as we sit in pitch blackness, we see, with any certainty…nothing. Spiritually, when we’re in the dark, we are disoriented. What we think we see isn’t accurate. The darkness can seem oppressive. We can even get to the point where there is something comforting in the darkness, because we don’t have to deal with what’s in the light. We can begin to fear the reality of the light more than the uncertainty of the dark. Once we find comfort in where we are, we don’t want to leave even though we cannot fully see, live, or move in the dark. That’s where grace meets us if we’re willing to reach out. We don’t need to see what we’re reaching for; we simply have to know to whom we’re reaching. When we call out to God, no matter what is going on in our lives, God hears us and meets us. He often doesn’t immediately or completely rescue and restore us. Restoration is a process that includes preparation for what’s to come. We need steps in order to experience and appreciate how God reveals himself to us. We need his timing, not our preferences. And we always need his grace no matter where we are. As long as we live on earth, there will be areas—whether large gaps or tiny spaces—that are dark. God reaches into the dark, shadowy spaces and sprinkles his grace. And we’re able to see what he wants us to see…if we’re willing to fully open our eyes and hearts.

Live It. Find a dark space. Close your eyes, trying to shut out all light for a full minute. Before opening your eyes, ask God to call attention to the dark places in your life, then respond by inviting his grace to consume those spaces.

An Honest Plea

15982610748_624795b881_oOnly God can be fully forgiving, compassionate, and cleansing. Only He is blameless. He desires our integrity. He restores us. When we trust His authority and claim His character and promises, then we are able to receive His fullness.

The first step is an honest plea:

Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant  compassion, blot out my rebellion. Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. (Psalm 51:1-13)

The Illusion of Ice

Do you ever have conversations that ignore what needs to be said?

There’s “that one topic” that no one wants to talk about, because it wreaks havoc on the family gathering, ministry meeting, or friendship. At some point, the topic came up, words were said, feelings were hurt, assumptions were made, and now it has become “that one topic.”

It’s like confidently walking or skating on ice, as if the ice is actually the ground, the foundation under your feet. It’s not. There’s water somewhere under the ice. Water that is likely moving, full of life…and dangerous. You don’t want to remember it’s there, because even the thought of it chills you to the bone. If you keep everything above the surface, no one gets hurt. Sure, someone might fall and get a bruise, there might be a slight conflict, but no one plummets into frigidity. To risk that seems like a death wish.

But it doesn’t go away. Some people won’t even inch out onto the ice, no matter how solid they think it is, because it’s not worth the risk. They’d rather stay on the shoreline and watch safely from a distance.

So, should you or shouldn’t you break through the ice?

It’s not an easy answer.

Yes, at some point, if you have an ongoing relationship with someone, you will need to break through. You’ll need to talk with someone about the topics that created a chasm, because it’s the only way to heal the chasm, but how can you do that? What happens when your brother makes a choice that you would never have made, and he knows you disapprove, so every time it (or any other conflict) comes up, he feels defensive and you feel judgmental? What happens when you do your best to expect the best from your adult child, but she repeats the same mistake over and over? Every time you even begin to talk to her about it, she shuts down and walks away. What happens when that mistake in your marriage gets brought up with any conflict even when there’s no connection whatsoever? What if no one is willing to talk about that family member who died and everyone misses but can’t push through the pain enough to remember together?

Relationships aren’t easy. Sometimes we want to stay on top of the ice because we’re scared of breaking through. Other times, we want to stay on top of the ice, because it’s the only opportunity we have to keep any kind of relationship with the person. It’s less about avoiding and more about maintaining with the hopes of restoring.

There’s no easy answer of what exactly you are supposed to say or do in your specific situation, but I know the direction that God wants us to always move toward: restoration. Sometimes we get to restore a relationship with a person, and sometimes our restoration focuses more on our relationship with God. Either way, we win. God wins. Because we honor Him through the process. We don’t try to figure it all out. We don’t try to avoid all conflict and pain. We don’t try to control all the details. Instead, we sit on the edge of our seats, ready to follow God wherever He leads us. We have our skates nearby. We also have a sledgehammer in case He leads us to break through the ice. In the meantime, we might have to wait for the ice to melt so we can wade through the water and meet someone halfway across the creek.

Have conversations as often as you can…especially with God.

Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12)

Does Time Heal?

Time might change the pain or perspective, but it doesn’t heal. God heals.

He heals the sick: But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. (Luke 9:11)

God’s physical healing isn’t something we demand of him. He knows when healing is best for a person and situation, including all the people who are influenced by that life. God’s response doesn’t always make sense to us. We don’t understand how someone who seems to lack faith is physically healed while someone of great faith suffers through pain. It’s not our job to understand. It’s our responsibility to trust. Our lack of understanding doesn’t change the consistency of who God is. God is never inconsistent. We simply don’t have the perspective he has.

While God’s physical healing might perplex us at times, we can rest assured about his spiritual healing.

God heals souls: “My wayward children,” says the LORD,  “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” “Yes, we’re coming,” the people reply,  “for you are the LORD our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)

There is no doubt about it. When someone turns to God for spiritual healing, when she humbly approaches God in need, he will meet her needs. He tenderly holds sensitive and calloused hearts in his hands and cares for them in ways only he can do. He has the insight to know just what is needed.

God will heal in time, but it’s not in our time. He heals in his time.

We can let time pass, expecting pain to ease, but if we don’t trust God’s timing and provision, we won’t heal.

We can trust God’s timing and provision and still experience pain. Sometimes it’s eased and sometimes it isn’t. What is best for one person isn’t best for another, but one thing is best for all: trusting God through the healing process. There will be times when there is excruciating pain and other times when there seems to be no pain at all. There will be recurring pain, anticipated pain, and surprising pain. It won’t be convenient, but in the process of trusting God, we will be healed.

Time doesn’t heal, but God’s perfect timing restores. Restoration is not often a neat, tidy, concise process. It’s okay. God is used to messes. Trust him with yours.