Grace by the barrels

In one of my first posts I recounted how on the day I was first diagnosed with ALS, the grace of God came to me in a way best described as a barrel full of peace, warmth, and assurance pouring over me.

I said about that day:

“About an hour later while we were waiting for our car to drive home, I shared with my wife an unusual experience that I experienced just seconds before. It was as if a big barrel filled with grace up in heaven just turned over and poured out all over me, from my head to my feet. ‘That means that we will be OK,’ I said. ‘God is here with us.”

God’s grace in my inner being has remained with me every day and night since.

The term “grace” as we use it in everyday living can mean:

  • a short prayer at mealtime (“Joe, would you please say grace?’);
  • ease and suppleness (“She moved through the  crowd with the grace of a princess.”)
  • approval, favor (“If you want to pass the course, you must stay in her good graces.’);
  • acting with calmness and repose (“She lost the election, but delivered her with grace and dignity.”);
  • decorum  (“Having grown up on the streets of London, he lacked all social graces.”);
  • a name: one of my granddaughters is Hannah Grace

It is also used in a religious sense. Both Hinduism and Islam, for example, speak about divine grace.

In Hinduism the “descent of divine grace is the turning point in the spiritual evolution of a bonded soul. . . “ As the soul passes through cycles of rebirth, the nature of each cycle is determined by the soul-bearer’s behavior in the previous life. As the soul-bearer empties herself/himself of ego, divine grace steps in and “the Lord chooses and moulds the soul.” (The Hindu, “Descent of divine grace,” Thursday, June 30, 2005, Retrieved June 13, 2017)

In Islam, Allah is said to be merciful. Every surah in the Qur’an, except for surah 9, begins with the statement “In the name of the Merciful, the Compassionate.” However, it is within the aspects of mercy and grace that the Allah of the Qur’an is seen to be very different than the God of the Bible.  Dr. Fritz Goerling of the Institute of Islamic Studies clarifies the difference:

“The Bible leaves no doubt that man is saved only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-24). By Jesus’ death this grace of God is already existing, while human beings are still ‘sinners’ and ‘enemies’ of God (Romans 5:6.8.10). Such a prevenient forgiveness would be unthinkable in Islam because, according to the Qur’an, Allah can only forgive if man has made the first step, has become a believer and obeys Allah (especially, if he practices the “Five Pillars” of Islam).” (Dr. Fritz Goerling in “‘Divine Grace’ in the Bible and in the Qur’an.”)

What is the nature of God’s grace?

  • Grace is God’s unmerited favor. God takes the first step by extending His grace to a sinful rebel, and, invading that rebel’s heart and mind, takes her or him captive.

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9)

  • Grace is a spiritual power granted by the resurrected Christ, equipping each Christian believer for a unique life of service. Within me God’s grace has been evidenced as an ability to effectively teach and counsel.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ’When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’” (Ephesians 4:4-8)

  • Grace is a divine energy that enables its recipients to rise above the situations of the present and to glorify God through their attitudes and behaviors.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

The Apostle Paul experienced God’s grace within a physical illness.

Paul asked God three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” which likely was a form of epilepsy connected with a strain of malaria in the area of Galatia. (See Galatians 4:12-14)

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he 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. 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.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

It is God’s grace that energizes me in my illness of ALS.

Each day God woes me with His presence, leading me to prayer, to meditate on scriptures I have memorized, and listening to hymns and spiritual songs.

Grace moves with waves through my thinking and my emotions, enabling me to perceive  ALS as an instrument used by God to increase my awareness of His goodness and love and to recognize increased outpourings of His grace upon me. When I grow weary with ventilators, wheelchairs, excessive salivating, and an inability to care for myself or for others, God’s grace lifts my spirit and fills me with a positive, hopeful outlook. Grace makes me content with the present and a longing for my inheritance in heaven.

(Image above used under Shutterstock license.)

___________________

 

 

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Text by Ro­bert Ro­bin­son, 1758.

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