Over the years, and through the ups and downs of numerous emotional and spiritual battles, my "soldier" heart has needed to regularly take a deep breath, be still in the presence of a mighty and holy God, and acknowledge to myself and to my Lord: this "warrior" is just a child. The children's song, Jesus Loves Me, says it best as it acknowledges my state of utter dependance: "I am weak but He is strong."
2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 has been an anchor for me during so many seasons of my life. It reminds me that I am a sinner saved by grace, that I have conceited tendencies that easily beset me, and that I have a tormenting enemy who God is somehow using to press me closer into His grace:
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surprising great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 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."
If we isolate just the words that God spoke to Paul, within the quotation marks, we realize that God doesn't give details about Satan and He doesn't talk about Paul's problems. Rather, He directs Paul's gaze back to His all-sufficient GRACE which alone can sustain a wounded warrior's soul.
Peter Scazzero's devotional, "The Daily Office", brings an important reminder to the subject of grace:
"The Bible does not spin the flaws and weaknesses of its heroes. Abraham lied. Hosea's wife was a prostitute. Peter rebuked God. Jonah was a racist. John Mark deserted Paul. Elijah burned out. Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal. Thomas doubted. Moses had a temper. Timothy had ulcers. Even David, one of God's most beloved friends, committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. Yet all these people send the same message: that every human being on earth, regardless of their gifts and strengths, is weak, vulnerable, and dependant on God and others."
He goes on to say, "The pressure to present an image of ourselves as strong and spiritually "together" hovers over most of us. We feel guilty for not measuring up; for not making the grade. We forget that all of us are human and frail."
God's grace comes to us in 3 primary ways:
1) Above all, it is communicated to us through God's Word, demonstrated perfectly by Jesus Christ, and quickened within our hearts by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
2) Secondly, we extend grace to one another. Fellow believers are not required to "earn" our grace.... nor are they required to prove themselves worthy to receive it. We are to give it freely, as freely as we have received it. We are to be known as a people of grace and truth.
3) Perhaps the most difficult application of grace is the grace we need to extend to our own souls. The grace from God and the grace from others will be meaningless if we do not accept the gift and encourage our own hearts to drink deeply from it. Feelings of unworthiness, guilt, self sufficiency, and pride often seek to undermine the FREE and UNDESERVED GIFT of God's grace. Yet we must fight the fight of faith and cast the anchor of our souls deep into the ocean of God's unmerited favour. We are to be rooted and grounded in the grace AND love of Christ.
Let's not live in denial by running from our weaknesses and failures.
Let's run right into them and find the Grace that awaits us!