Jon and I were talking after church one day about grace. He was thinking about the semester to come: working at the restaurant 20-25 hours a week, teaching 20 hours a week, class 20 hours a week, plus homework. He knew this would be challenging. His credit load would be more than any other semester of grad school and he would have a newborn wailing, I mean waiting for him when he got home. (I'm tired just thinking of it!) And that's the point: Jon can't do it in his own strength. When times like this come along, we SHOULD lift our heads and boast in our own weakness as Paul tells us to do in 2 Corinthians, "But [the Lord] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." God refines us during these times, and he increases His grace to us. Merriam-Webster calls grace "unmerited divine assistance" and also compares it with approval, favor, & mercy. For Jon, grace might come as a shot of renewed focus and creativity while he's doing homework in the wee hours of the morning. It might come as supernatural rest during the few hours of sleep he gets each night. Grace might come in the form of a well-timed hug from his daughter, a delicious supper from his wife, an encouraging coo from his baby, or a pat on the back by his boss. Or maybe grace will be present in just enough strength to make it through another day.
We both found it strange how we usually look at challenges or "hard times" with sorrow, dread, or worry. We go through these times with the face of a martyr telling our peers, "well, God knows what he's doing, and we'll get through it...somehow..." Maybe we should rend our garments and pour ashes on our heads, too! If we know the furnace is for our refinement, we should meet it with rejoicing - we are being made more like Christ!
CONSIDER IT PURE JOY MY BROTHERS WHEN YOU FACE TRIALS OF MANY KINDS, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be MATURE AND COMPLETE, not lacking anything. ~James 1:2-4
My challenge has come in the form of a tiny little baby :-) I was certainly excited for her to come, but as we all tend to do, I was dreading the furnace, the fire, the challenge of change. What does the furnace do? It burns us. Specifically it burns away our fleshly desires and selfishness. It hurts and it's no fun. When Lucie decides she doesn't want to sleep at 2:30 in the morning, I have to battle my fleshly desire to sleep and use this time to train and teach her how to sleep. Why was I dreading this? Yes it sucks to not sleep, but I know in my heart that perseverance must finish its work! And finish it will, since God promises that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion (Phil 1:6). God's grace is abounding in me at this time. Shouldn't I rejoice? I think I'm beginning to get it. Consider it pure Joy...for His grace is sufficient for me! Praise God!!