The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
February 11, 2017
“Yes, we love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19, Phillips).
The question on my heart today is, “How do we share the love of God with others who so desperately need it but don’t know it is even available?” As we relate to loved ones who are going through a painful cactus patch in their lives, how do we even pray for them in a meaningful way? I’m not here to tell you how to do this but to share my angst and ask for you to share your own experiences with me.
It has long been my conviction that people can never share the love of God with others if they have not felt it themselves. I certainly have often felt His love at a cellular level, and yet, am now feeling powerless to share that experience with much loved friends who really need to feel it themselves. In the past, I would have urged them to get spiritual help and counsel either from scripture itself, or from their spiritual advisors. If they don’t read the Bible, and/or have no spiritual advisors, what then? Psychological counseling has helped me, but I can testify that it is only as good as the personal experience of the counselor. What to do then?
In his essay entitled, “Grace Points,” my good friend Winslow Parker wrote:
“Paul says in Romans 5:20, “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.…” Based on this scripture, I ask the question, “Where is the highest concentration of grace?” Is it in the church buildings named “GracePoint?” Is it among those of us who have left mainstream churches to worship in homes? Is it in the hearts of those who are considered holy men of past or present: Paul, St. Francis or Billy Graham? I would argue “No.” According to Paul, grace is most abundant when and where sin most abounds…
“The hospital is the house of pain and sorrow, but it is also the most concentrated place of healing, where the most dramatic changes from disease to wellness occur. When my cold finally ends and I’m no longer dabbing at my nose, that is healing; my body has overcome the invaders. I might call that an act of healing, or, to use another word, an act of grace. The doctor’s office is a more concentrated place of healing, but the most concentrated of all is the hospital.
“This being true, why should I wonder when I read these strange words of Paul, “…where sin is most concentrated, that is where grace is most concentrated.”
“I look inside and see that place which is most polluted within myself and cry aloud, “where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” To Him be the glory!”
“Oh wondrous Wonder that You are, how You delight in turning things on their heads, turning them inside out and confounding us with the vast mystery that is You. What we expect is rarely what we find. Contradictions and anomalies are the coin of Your realm. But, when we finally understand this about You, we bow in awe and exclaim with Paul, “To the praise of Your glorious grace which You lavish on us in Your Beloved One.” End Quote.
It occurs to me that my friend’s comments on grace, must certainly also be true of finding and feeling God’s love. When things are going swimmingly in our relationships, in health and prosperity, we often confuse that with God’s love for us. It is, of course, but the idea that His love is only exhibited in material and/or spiritual blessings is sophomoric theological thinking. There is the teaching out there that God is the blesser and the devil is the disturber, but that only appeals to folks who, like Job, hope to manipulate God into staving off all the bad things and pouring out only goodness in their lives (See Job 1:5; 13-15).
God is the author of all things in our path, including cactus patch type hardships, such as traumas, troubles, discomfort, illness, and poverty. He “works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will,” according to Paul (Ephesians 1:11). But why? I don’t make a habit of speaking for the Almighty, but I recognize in my own life that if there weren’t hardships, only blessings, I might believe that it is because I’m such a “good girl,” or because I have obeyed God.
I found a note to myself while looking for something in my little notebook, which pretty much sums it up. Living by Law can only give you 2 things: 1) Pride because you have deceived yourself into thinking you have kept it, and/or 2) Despair because you know you cannot keep it. Where does that leave us? On our knees before the grace of God, who alone can keep us from falling.
When we are the most bereft emotionally, it is God who comforts our hearts. Perhaps we didn’t even know to ask Him for help when it happened, but later, the still small voice whispers, “I’ve got your back.” Once, decades ago, when I was emotionally distraught and terrified, I cried out to God in tears, to spare the person I feared was about to die, and the Lord said to me, “What kind of Father do you think I am?” That brought me out of the wretched state I was in instantly, gave me hope, and let me know that I don’t fight these horrific battles alone. He’s with me in the trenches all the way.
Even as hospitals are the nexus between illness and healing, even so, trauma and turmoil are the places where God’s love abounds: “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2, RSV).
As for those for whom I’m interceding, God loves them more than I do, and knows exactly how and when to show them His love. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. Where physical pain and emotional anguish abound, He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Paul assured us, “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope makeeth not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5, KJV). Tribulation, trouble, adversity, cactus patches all, work ultimately for our good. Only our sovereign all powerful Father God could make that happen.
It occurs to me that when we see those we love floundering in problems that seem unsolvable, in sorrow that seems never ending and in abject dejection, the only thing we can do is gently share our experience of God’s love with them, and pray. We take comfort in the realization that we have a front row seat to watch our Abba at work in their lives even as we have seen Him work in ours, turning our mourning into dancing, and our deepest sorrow into unspeakable joy.
Father, You are a marvel of goodness, light, joy, and expertise at using trouble, turmoil, and pain to grow us in grace and unconditional love. We thank You for allowing us to feel Your love as we luxuriate in Your Presence. Make us instruments of Your peace and grace and unconditional love to all You place in our path. We join our voice to “the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan Austin Antonsson
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