Grace Isn’t Going Anywhere

“We’re singing Amazing Grace … again?”

I used to feel we over-sang the lyrics of this hymn and passed over playing it on the piano, the tune too old fashioned for my taste.

Eventually it became a favorite as I grew to understand the heart of the words:

Was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved

I had no idea my childhood fears would make grace more than just a song title.

One night at Pizza Hut we fellowshiped with another family from church. On a slick chair, chewing a breadstick, I overheard the mom say, “…back when Jay was in a four-wheeler accident, and then later he needed surgery…”

Surgery? For someone the age of eleven like me?! Horrifying!

I began to feel sick and asked if I could go sit in the van. Thus ensued an army of what ifs. What if I would have to face surgery? What if I experienced intense pain? What if someone I knew got cancer?

Food didn’t seem swallow-able for the next week, and I spent a miserable few days in irrational fear of trials that could strike at any untoward moment.

My parents gently quoted Scripture to me about how “worry doesn’t add a cubit to your stature” and reminded me God is in control. These conversations would help, but I would just sink back into anxious thoughts.

Ironically, I even began to grow concerned I would have health problems because I worried so much. The battle raged in my mind to wrestle tomorrow’s problems today. The potential problems.

I cried to my mom one day in her room. “I don’t understand why this is happening. I’m a Christian. I’m asking God to take this away.”

She asked if I truly believed He could take away my fears. This stunned me. She also said:

“God gives the grace we need when we need it (and not before).”

Could I believe He is who He says He is, that He is able to answer the very prayer I was praying?

Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom shared a similar problem in her book, The Hiding Place. Along with her mother and sister, Corrie visited a poor family with a basket of bread. The family had lost a baby the night before. Corrie’s first real brush with death threw her into confusion and fear. Later that night Corrie’s father shared encouragement with her:

At last we heard Father’s footsteps winding up the stairs…But that night as he stepped through the door I burst into tears. “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!”

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

I sniffed a few times, considering this. “Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we’re going to need things too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need–just in time.”

The Hiding Place

This moment my mom shared about real grace for real scenarios (not our imagined ones) was when it clicked for me. Back beside my bunkbed, I knelt down and prayed again, “Lord, please take this fear away. I know that You can. I have faith that You will give me grace when I need it.”

When I truly believed I prayed to the God who is able, when I realized He is the One to fear, I didn’t worry about these irrational scenarios of my future.

Was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved

Nearly all of what I worried about in those days after Pizza Hut never occurred. But things that I didn’t think to worry about DID occur.

But grace my fears relieved, and my Father gives me strength like a train ticket at just the right times. Don’t run out in front of Him.

Yes, I’ll always fight fear. But I remember His grace is sufficient, and it’s not going anywhere since a wretch like me never deserved His favor in the first place. I recall my bunkbed prayer and the peace which comes from deeply knowing and believing He is bigger than the future trials. And worrying now won’t change anything.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie ten Boom

His grace – the unmerited favor of God toward man – cannot be snatched from what lies ahead.

On a recent Sunday my dad preached in the first chapter of I Timothy. Verse 14 reads:

“And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant,

with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”

Grace super-abounds like the broken sprinklers swamping the flowerbeds this time of year. Grace upon grace overflows like a river in flood stage.

After the sermon we sang the words below, and I noted the unique adjective for grace (indelible), later searching for its definition.

Making marks that can’t be removed.

How grateful I am for that time at Pizza Hut — and many other places of doubt — because God’s been tuning my heart to sing His grace, yes even using an old fashioned, now-beloved hymn by John Newton.

No wonder how sweet the sound of God’s amazing, abounding, permanent grace.

–Augustus Toplady, Bob Kauflin

Take Courage, Graduate

My congratulations, graduates! Aren’t you relieved, excited, and terrified? So was I. 

Maybe you — like it’s etched on your heart — know exactly how you want to serve and grow in this big world. I admire and appreciate you. 

But maybe you feel like everyone owns a 5-year plan, life verse, and scholarship except for you. Perhaps you fear someone jumping out from behind the grad cake table, quizzing you on your weakest subject and sending you back to high school.

Your friends are moving on, and so is childhood. You wish you had pomp for your circumstance.

Continue reading “Take Courage, Graduate”

If Onlys of Spring

March and April gave me an opportunity to breathe deep and to silence the endless what ifs with an even if stance. Even if my fears come true, God is still good and powerful. Now those what ifs still tickle occasionally, but I’ve gained ground in trusting the Lord. The forecasted calamities didn’t happen to me anyway. The time I spent worrying added not an inch to my height nor a day to my life, just like Jesus promised.

Now we’re marching into May with “grace in our hearts and flowers in our hair”* and a new horizon. I’ve shifted from fighting worry … to combatting discontentment.

Continue reading “If Onlys of Spring”

Obedient Next

Elisabeth Elliot’s famous encouragement, “Pick up the broom, and do the next thing” graced my growing-up years. Mom shared this motto with me first, and often it literally involved grasping the broom and sweeping the floor. As time passes, this phrase becomes more and more inspiring and brings hope to more than just my chores.

Lately all the extra time at home has given me an excuse to procrastinate on the little things and to be nervous about the big things. Little things like pantry organization and big things like a loved one’s lost job.

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Back Together But Feeling Alone

Near the end of the book Little Women, the March family celebrates a joyful reunion after much separation and heartache. Laughter, tarts, hot biscuits, and a wedding to discuss. The young and old rejoice in being together once again in the Orchard House.

But our heroine Jo March — no stranger to restlessness — feels an ache amidst the merriment. Much has changed since they had last gathered.

Continue reading “Back Together But Feeling Alone”