By Sue Reeve
It’s too painful for me to watch! You know, when one of those young people auditions on a reality television singing competition, and the insufficiency of his or her talent is glaringly obvious.
It’s been said,
“You can be anything you want to be.”
“You can succeed if you only work hard enough.”
“Whatever you believe, you will achieve.”
“Prayer changes everything.”
While diligence, persistence, hard work, deep belief and fervent prayer can lead a person to incredible heights, the reality is we all have areas in which we have insufficiencies.
Our God-design may not enable us to be what we think we want to be. Our God-given gifts may not include the talent needed in order to achieve a certain level of expertise regardless of how hard we work. We may believe fiercely, recite every positive affirmation known to man and still not achieve what we believed with all our heart we would. We may not receive the exact answer to our prayer.
It’s when our deepest dreams don’t materialize—or hard work hasn’t paid off— or our fervent prayers haven’t been answered that we have the opportunity to lean in and allow grace to be woven into our insufficiencies.
Several weeks ago in one of my blog posts I related an incredible life lesson I learned about the sufficiency of God’s grace. When I was 23-years-old, I was in a terrible head-on automobile collision. Almost every bone on the right side of my face was crushed. I spent several days in intensive care and many months convalescing.
I looked awful.
After several weeks during which I was protected emotionally by some special unseen force, the reality of the toll the injuries had taken on my appearance set in. One evening when I was alone with my thoughts and my pain, I recall weeping uncontrollably, asking God, “Why? Why? Why did you let this happen to me?”
About thirty years after my questioning lament, I was asked to speak for a Mother’s Day luncheon. In my preparations, I thought about this incident and commented almost nonchalantly in prayer, “God, you never answered the “Why?” questions I asked that night.”
It was then I recalled another incident—one that occurred several weeks after my agonizing prayer. I’d never before made the connection. This time, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, looked at that lady peering back at me and said to her, “Okay, Susan, this is the face you have now. Learn to deal with it.” From that moment I began experimenting with make-up and different hairstyles and never thought a whole lot more about how I looked.
What God showed me thirty years post-prayer is what he also revealed to the Apostle Paul some 2000 years earlier after Paul prayed three times God would remove some unspecified ‘thorn’ from his flesh.
God’s grace was sufficient!
A teaching I once heard about this passage of Scripture indicated that when God told Paul Divine grace was all he was going to get, God was in fact saying it in a way that indicates the answer was final. In other words Paul’s Heavenly Father was saying, “Okay, son, you’ve asked me three times already, and I’m telling you, ‘Don’t ask again! My grace is sufficient—now and forever.’”
I cannot say I received such a direct message from God as Paul did, but I do know regarding my facial injuries, I never again asked God “Why?” Somehow, the unheard voice of the Spirit assured my spirit that I was going to be all right because God’s grace would be sufficient.
As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve also been praying for a great niece who’s recovering from her second surgery this year. Grace is a tiny little thing. A congenital birth defect prohibits her from absorbing nutrients necessary to grow normally. Multiple major surgeries will undoubtedly be required to repair the condition. There’s a ‘mama/grandma’ part of me that wants to ask, “Why, God? Why must little ones like Grace suffer?” But, then, I think about the ‘big, feisty’ spirit this little girl possesses, and I’m reminded this special child was named aptly. She was endowed by her creator the spunk she’s going to need to face her medical condition. I’m comforted to know that even as Grace’s name suggests, God’s grace will be sufficient for not only Grace but for her mama, daddy and ‘big’ brother who are walking through this difficult season with her.
When grace is woven into the difficulty and pain that come from living in an imperfect world, a new dimension of God’s goodness—God’s sufficiency—is discovered. I don’t want to sound ‘Polyanna-ish’ about all of this. If I had my druthers, I would never have experienced the physical and emotional pain of that automobile accident. Little Grace certainly wouldn’t be going through the pain connected to major surgeries. There’s a whole mess of pain going on throughout this world that wouldn’t be happening.
I don’t understand the reason for life’s pain. Truly, I don’t! But, in spite of life’s difficulty and discomfort, I do believe with every fiber of my being there is an unexplainable but very real adequacy when grace is woven divinely into our insufficiencies.
Blessings on your journey as you experience the sufficiency of grace!