Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pain and Grace

We have psychiatric words for people who enjoy pain.
Pain is (as Dr. Paul Brandt observies in his wonderful book "Pain the Gift Nobody Wants") really a gift and not a curse! Many people mistakenly (in my opinion) interpret Genesis 3:16-19 to say that pain is a result of the fall. That's not what my Bible says. I think my Bible says that pain will INCREASE in childbirth rather than become existent. My Bible says that work will be harder not suddenly become hard because of the fall.
I've been thinking about grace and how it practically applies to my heart and life recently. It's sort of like the horse and carriage (in the song) - I don't think you can have one without the other! Getting to grace only comes through pain. It is intrinsic in the process!
I conclude that we are so caught up in what we want to be true that we eventually convince ourselves that what we want is the reality. That just ain't so! We want life to be painless! And it ain't!
That's what a Pittsburgh dentist knows and advertises when he hangs his shingle on "painfree dentistry"! Is there such a thing or is it just that the pain is blocked by some substance or technique? The reality is that the pain is still there -just not perceived.
GRACE - unlike the pursuit of a life without pain - requires pain in order to get to grace! That makes grace unappealing at first glance. We can only understand the wonder of forgiveness and true love when we have at least touched some of the darkenss that resides from conception in every heart. THAT's the part where the fall fits in!
One of my favorite hymns is "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." The 3rd verse challenges my heart with grace:
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let that grace now 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, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

In my musings about grace I have found a great gratitude for living in the 20th and 21st centuries. I believe the family of God is blessed as perhaps never before with a Biblical understanding of grace in very practical ways that is unprecedented!
"A life lived under the rule of grace is a life of need which allows us to receive and appreciate the gift of the Giver of Grace. That is why we will always have the poor with us; this is why God will not allow us to ignore injustice; this is why we are called to a life we cannot handle alone, which can and will break us in the effort to live it -- because grace must wound before it heals."
To turn the phrase "No pain no gain" - the Biblical model is "No pain no grace"! That's true for our awesome Savior and His Father both and it's true for every believer in search of grace for the deepest crevices of our hearts of darkness!
(credit given to Justin McRoberts for some of my thoughts)

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