I started going to church in second grade, so I’ve been hearing about Jesus and grace for as long as I can remember. I could recite the mantra of grace long before it became something I understood I needed. It’s an undeserved gift. One we open with a beaming grin and a genuine, heart felt, “Thank you!” We wear it proudly, stand behind it whenever we need it to cover our biggest mistakes and shortcomings. “Thank God for grace,” we say. It’s how we tell everyone else about this big, awesome, loving God we’ve met. It is the bottom line, focal point of the gospel.
I didn’t care all that much about it until I was sixteen, and the proverbial switch flipped in my heart. Grace stopped being a catch phrase from the pulpit and became a relief, a shelter, the overwhelming sense of goodness from God.
Over the course of my life of faith grace has proven itself to be all of those things. But I have also found that these descriptions alone can deliver with them an assumption that grace will feel good. This perspective narrows our awareness of God’s kindness towards us in the darker moments of life. Some of the most important graces in my life have been very uncomfortable; they’ve been downright painful, actually.
When I was 26 years old I got pregnant with identical twin boys, Pearce and Cohen. At 34 weeks, Cohen’s heart stopped beating and I was rushed in for an emergency C-section to save Pearce’s life. Pearce was whisked away to the NICU where he would spend the next four weeks trying to breath on his own and I was wheeled to a hospital room holding my perfect baby’s lifeless body pleading silently with God to make him wake up. In those days, I could not see grace hiding in any shadow of my life. Pain is blinding this way. And grace is supposed to feel good…
The years that followed were an endless pursuit of God’s goodness. Years of chasing answers to why he would have allowed such a thing. Uncertainty about God’s presence in my darkest hours. A maddening search for the assumed feel-good-grace. I couldn’t see Him because I was expecting him to show Himself by way of removing pain and longing and questions. But, his grace towards me was to let me wrestle with some flawed, long held beliefs and to uproot some strongholds I had been asking him to remove for many years.
He is always out for our hearts and sometimes the means to this is uncomfortable grace.
From my vantage point now I know things were born that would never have been if God had not allowed such uncomfortable grace in my greatest pain and deepest questioning. A hard heart was softened, pride was diminished, a self-centered view of God’s purposes was adjusted. Hope in the resurrection and a longing for eternity were heightened, joy was strengthened, assurance was fortified.
These are some of the greatest graces in my life, but they did not feel good in the making. This is the way of grace sometimes. We need not look farther than the cross to see how excruciating the road to grace can be. But, I believe these uncomfortable graces develop the, “weight of glory” Paul talks about in Corinthians. The kind of glory that no suffering or questioning or heartbreak can shake. That hard, uncomfortable grace of unwanted singleness might produce in you a weight of glory that will transform your view of your purpose and value in the Lord. That painful, uncomfortable grace of a marriage that is not what you hoped for might produce in you a weight of glory that will send you deeper and nearer to the heart of God. That disappointing, uncomfortable grace of a dashed dream and unmet longing might produce in you a weight of glory that is rewriting your identity in unshakable ways.
I want grace to feel good the whole way through. I want all the heart change, all the perspective shift, all the assurance and joy without the wrestling and the loss. But, on this side of those graces I know that while it cost me a great deal, what has grown in its place is the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus.
Take heart friends. God is always after our good and his unending love is always compelling him. So, we can be sure that even that painstaking, shadowed season in your life will turn out to be the very thing he uses to lavish grace on you, no matter how uncomfortable its beginning.