Monday, May 05, 2008

The Awful Grace of God

I don’t know how one measures grief. A dear friend recently challenged me that, being too busy ministering to others, maybe I haven’t yet begun to grieve. The thought troubled me, and I didn’t answer for a moment. It was going to take me some time to work out this thought. One thing I’ve concluded in my suffering is that spiritual stamina thrives in conflict and challenge. Grief is God's avenue where wisdom is found. So embracing my struggles advances my spiritual life.

Grieving people are conflicted people. In grief and suffering we tend naturally to rebel against the loss and pain, and sometimes we find ourselves warring with God. We are at odds with His new plan that interrupts our lives and our joy. This trial requires humble submission when all-out rebellion fills your heart. What is the child of God to do? You do have an option, besides submission to God's sovereign will—not a good option, but many take it nonetheless. Grief often leads you to this unthinkable option, since your grief is just that. You are at that moment quite at odds with God, and you have just embraced bitterness as the other option.

The bitter option is always near. The refusal to accept our circumstances stiffens our rebellion toward God as our will flexes and pushes like a child's arching back. We scream as we awkwardly demand release. We become like a sulking child who will not be comforted and who rejects the Father's very presence. We are here most inconsolable.

Deut. 29:18 says, “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison” (NIV).

The book of Hebrews also speaks of this bitter root that produces dangerous poison and by which many are defiled. Grief visits us as individuals, but no one suffers its consequences alone. The bitter root often remains hidden and forgotten by others. The bitter grieving choice leaves its true victim in a dangerous dilemma. The only source of genuine comfort is pushed away, suffering intensifies, isolation darkens and pain rubs a very raw place upon the soul.

Our Father God refuses to let our tantrum push Him away. If we yield to his love, we find the comfort only He can give. We also find the only option that has hope. Grief will not leave you as it finds you, and there is no going back to what you once were. Yet our Father has plans, dreams and hope. There is at this moment peace as we collapse into his arms. It is a strange peace that often baffles friends and observers. It is easily misunderstood, but make no mistake—it is God's grace.

I daily face a choice to give into bitterness or to press into this grief, embracing my God. No, this is not an easy place, but you learn not to adore easy places. God has a greater plan for my life with a future and a hope. Accepting my loss and embracing Him brings the ability to face tomorrow. God's grace is an uncomfortable grace, but it brings wisdom as one of its great gifts. The poet Aeschylus wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” I embrace grace today and trust His grace for tomorrow. I am not able to measure my grief, but I can measure His infinite love where it wraps around me.

Ed Litton
Painting: Biblia Sacra by Salvador Dali


Anonymous said...

I know how you feel, Ed. You see, I lost my Husband just weeks after you lost your wife. I have been reading your blog site since September. It has helped me so much.....only you and people who have been through this loss can understand....God is wonderful. Where would we be without him during this time? Thank you for your blog site, Berwyn Galt

Andy said...

Ed, I DON'T know how you feel.

But I know you continue to reflect and radiate that "awful grace of God" to those around you, including those in my west Texas congregation.

And your response to the challenging friend is a reflection of the choice you make daily.

Andy Wood

MikeS said...


From personal experience, I know the temptation of busyness. I know first hand that in the midst of busyness it easy to persuade yourself into thinking your helping others, when in fact it was me who needed the help. . .to grieve. I'm sure you remember, maybe more than you want.

I WAS that sulking, inconsolable child - not wanting to admit the loss. At least not emotionally.

Don't go there. Whatever you do, don't become that person. Keep pressing into God's grace. Continue to decide to hold onto our God who loves you more than the pain you're experiencing now.

And take it from me - there is an other side.