As you know God has been quite busy teaching me about grace this year. He has chosen to take me deeper and deeper into His Word as He and I explore this area together. God reminds me daily that everything about grace flows from a heart that is pure, loving, kind, compassionate, and selfless.
The lengths God goes to teach me these lessons of grace cause me to shake my head and smile. Even when I think I’m in control, I know better. He works and works, placing me in the midst of His will even when I’m kicking and screaming. Let me explain what I’m talking about …
In His sovereignty, God decided to have me lead a Bible study by Beth Moore beginning in January. Now I wasn’t the original leader for this study. I figured I had enough on my plate, but God had a different plan in mind as He usually does. With a shoulder still healing, new semester of “things to do,” new assignments at work, a mission trip on the horizon, etc., I felt like I had some really good excuses for not leading a Bible study just now. I had just completed an online study for Remind Me, so I felt a break would not be too much to ask for. Sound valid?
Well, those excuses didn’t mean a whole lot to God. He had His plan, and He was sticking to it! And I’ll go ahead and admit to you that I’m glad He did. God put me exactly where I needed to be as He’s prone to do.
The Study the Lord had me lead is on the Book of Daniel. Now I’ve never spent a lot of time really studying this book of the Bible. I know the basics–the fiery furnace, the lion’s den, the handwriting on the wall, but I’ve never gone in-depth with Daniel. Not until now.
A few weeks ago we were on session six. God has been using this study to teach me every week but week six was a zinger for me. In her video Beth said that God most often chooses to deliver us through (not from) the fiery trials of life because this is how we learn the most about Him. Now I totally get that truth. In fact, I’ve said that numerous times before. As an aside, Beth mentioned that we have no idea how often God delivers us from the fiery trials, of course, because when the fire never touches us, we have no knowledge of it. Here’s where she really got my attention–I just love the way she said this. As God delivers us through the fiery trials, as He manifests His presence with us in the lion’s den, we get to have these gloriously intense encounters with Him.
I love that! Gloriously intense encounters with God.
But there’s a little problem.
Our problem is reacting in the flesh and not in the Spirit to these trials, be them fire or the mouths of lions. We want to react in the Spirit at all times, but let’s be honest, in the midst of the fire we rarely (no pun intended) do so.
Then Beth referenced Philippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
That’s when it hit me. Prayer is key to living in a state of grace. Prayer is key to deliverance through the fire or the den of the lion–prayer and thanksgiving that is. I want to talk more about prayer in another post but for today, I want to focus in on thanksgiving.
Thanking God in the midst of the heat guards our hearts and fills us with overwhelming peace. Thanking God when the lion’s claws have you by the shoulder manifests grace in your life. I love this lesson. It’s so simple, yet powerful.
One morning in South Africa as I awoke to this incredible view, God impressed upon my heart that in all my 75 days of post-surgery shoulder troubles, I hadn’t once thanked Him for the pain. I had complained about the pain, but never voiced a prayer of thanksgiving for the pain. I know that sounds crazy — thank God for the pain? Really? But that’s what He was prompting me to do.
As morning broke and the sun rose from the mouth of the ocean, I understood the importance of thanking God for the pain. The continual pain became God’s tool to work His all-sufficient grace in my life. Let’s be honest. Pain hurts, but flying on an airplane 8,000 miles with pain and actually enduring it–miraculous.
God’s grace. A gloriously intense encounter with His grace.
Sleeping in spite of the pain, yet another measure of God’s grace.
These gloriously intense encounters with God are all things for which we can be grateful, I realized, but what about thanking God just for experiencing the pain? Thanking Him for the opportunity to depend fully and completely on Him in the midst of a difficulty? The notion had never occurred to me regarding physical pain until that moment.
You see, God heaps grace upon grace daily on me, and I barely thank Him for the lesson. I just see the grace moment as an inconvenience, and a painful one at that. But what if I, what if you could see pain as an opportunity to draw nearer to the heart of God?
What if we saw the pain as a way to become more like Christ? What if the pain became a loving tool God used to show us a greater glimpse of His glory? A grace moment overflowing with the truth that God loves us so much that He purposes pain in our lives to take us to new heights in our relationship with Him.
What if we chose to call our pain something different? What if we chose to call it a grace lesson rather than a painful lesson, a fiery trial or a trip to the lion’s den?
Could we then begin to thank God for these lessons of grace? Could we be grateful that He is teaching us to embrace grace in the everyday?
As the sun set that evening in Cape Town, I looked to the horizon and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God just as I had at sunrise when God revealed this powerful truth to me. I had gotten through the day, not pain free but full of grace. I had endured the pain, not in my own strength, but in His. I am so grateful for this grace lesson given to me 8,000 miles from home. I pray I stop shouting at God for the pain and start shouting out praise and thanksgiving to God in the midst of the painful times, the fiery trials and the trips into the lion’s den.
What about you? What grace lesson are you thankful for today? Will you shout at God or shout to God in praise and thanksgiving for the grace upon grace He is heaping on you?