Grace That Sustains
Talking about discouragement is a strange way to begin a new year, no doubt. But given what we’ve been through – collectively – in 2020 AND what seems to be waiting for us in 2021, this might just be something we all need to hear right now. I know I do.
Discouragement is one of those things that no one asks for. It just comes into our life uninvited and we usually don’t know how long it’s planning to stay. Discouragement can show up for any number of reasons.
There are health issues that don’t seem to be getting better or a struggle to pay your bills. You might be looking for a job and keep running into dead ends. You’re struggling with an unanswered prayer or you have a difficult marriage or you’re going through a lonely season. Maybe it’s that someone in your life won’t change or cooperate. Perhaps you feel stuck spiritually or you’re wrestling with temptation. The list could go on, for sure!
You find yourself in this place where all you can say is, “It is what it is, and it looks like that’s just the way it’s going to be. As far as I can see into the foreseeable future, nothing’s going to change.”
Whenever you’re discouraged, especially over long periods of time, there are three lies that inevitably creep into your mind.
Nothing good can come from this.
It becomes so difficult to believe that God could possibly be at work in this circumstance. This suffering has no silver lining.
I’ll never be happy again.
It’s so easy to project forward in our minds and imagine a future that’s just a continuation of today. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
There’s no point in continuing.
You’re tempted to run, abandon, quit, give up, give in, or drink yourself into oblivion.
In short, we lose our hope, we lose our joy, and we lose our sense of purpose.
What does the Bible have to say that could possibly be helpful?
God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(Go read the whole passage! – 2 Corinthians 12.1-10.)
It’s as if God says, “I’m going to show off my power through your weakness.”
The Apostle Paul, his response to this grace and power was to say, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
That seems almost crazy.
And yet, that’s why Paul didn’t lose his hope.
He believed and trusted that God is good and therefore God has purpose in our suffering.
He didn’t lose his joy.
He discovered a joy and a contentment that’s not dependent on circumstances.
He didn’t lose his sense of purpose.
As long as he was still breathing, he was determined to glorify God.
Ultimately, what we learn from Paul and Jesus and our friends and neighbors is that sustaining grace begins with, “Not my will, but your will be done.”
The grace given to us isn’t always healing grace; often, the grace given is strength to endure, to not give up.
Sustaining grace is that grace that becomes the power that allows you to put one foot in front of another, one day after another, with hope, with joy, and with purpose.