The Problem With Receiving God’s Grace
One night during Bible Study at my church, a fellow parishioner made a comment about the difficulty we have with accepting grace. Her point, in essence, was that we often feel we must earn what we receive and thus struggle to comprehend being given grace without earning it.
Contemplating her words, I began to examine closer my feelings and understanding of the concept of grace. I realized that, if I am honest with myself, at times God’s grace seems more like a hindrance to my walk with God than and a blessing.
This may sound paradoxical, the idea that grace is a hindrance to intimacy with God; but looking at the definition of grace will highlight the issue. I’ve heard many preachers define grace as the unmerited favor of God. The dictionary offers several definitions, but two that I found particularly relevant were that grace was “a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior” or it was defined as “mercy; clemency; pardon”.
Grace Reminds Humbles You
What is most striking from all these definitions is that grace is something completely external from me. It can only occur through the actions of an outside force working on my behalf. While I may advocate for myself, in the end, I have no control over the grace given to me. The truth of this humbles me.
Like a defendant throwing himself at the mercy of the court, the ultimate decision remains with the court, and not with the defendant. Within the Christian context, we understand grace par excellence through the life of Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice pardoned us from sin.
Grace Forces You To Surrender Control
But, you may ask, how does knowing that serve as a hindrance to one’s walk with God. The answer is simply: control. As my fellow parishioner said, we like to feel like we can earn God’s favor. What I think she was getting at is this. We like to maintain some level of control over our lives. This is especially true when it comes to our relationship with God.
As someone who likes to feel in control, grace induced humility is an unsettling space to be in. It is something I struggle with from time to time. I like the idea of receiving God’s grace (or grace in general), but I do not like the idea that I am somehow not in control of my life.
However, I have to remind myself that it is safe to rest and depend on the Lord. As I have stated before, the control I think I have over my life is largely an illusion anyway. I cannot control my entire life, nor should I try.
Instead I must embrace grace and all that it entails. God’s grace is meant to be liberating and empowering. And it will be that, but only if we let it. We just have to remember God’s words when God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9.