I’m sipping chai tea while snuggled under a blanket and feeling the need to write. Usually, the words flow easiest when things go south. It’s my way of processing life. But there is no crisis at the moment. There is no overwhelming sense of dread or even excessive joy.
There is simply a cozy feeling of contentment.
I can’t tell you the last time that I’ve felt complete peace. The kind that reaches down into the deepest parts of my soul. But, recently, a decade-long struggle was laid to rest.
The problem of grace.
I’ve wrestled with it, you know. Wanting desperately to feel worthy of salvation yet knowing I wasn’t. Most of the time, it was just a subtle undercurrent in my walk with Jesus. But, every now and then, a tidal wave of doubt would assail me. And then, for a season, I’d toss and turn at night, plagued by my sins and wondering what hope there could be for a person like me.
Did God really forgive me? Truly? After what I did?
It happened in my early twenties. My friend was diagnosed with a brain tumour and things weren’t looking good.
One night, we went out to Starbucks.
“This is your chance to tell him about Jesus,” one of my pastors said.
As my friend and I sat sipping our lattes, I tried. But I couldn’t figure out how to get the words out just right. We’d talked about Jesus before, I think. Back in high school. But my friend needed to hear it again right then. And here’s the ugly truth: I failed.
It’s okay. I’ll find the words next time, I told myself.
But there never was a next time.
I hated myself for years. Oh, how I hated myself.
I’ve known for over a decade now that I don’t deserve heaven. Not when my friend probably didn’t make it. My heart breaks every time I think about it. And, for over a decade, I’ve been terrified at the thought of standing before God someday. What would He say to me?
After what I did.
But then, this month happened.
It started at a Thursday night prayer meeting. My daughter’s sobs were unexpected and loud, rising above the cacophony of voices. Quickly, I scooped up her lanky frame—she’s growing fast—and carried her to the foyer.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You’re not proud of me anymore,” she wailed. The tears were flowing fast.
“What do you mean, I’m not proud of you?” I asked.
“I was bad and you’re not proud of me anymore!”
We were nearing the end of a long week, with prayer meetings every night and schoolwork every day. She was exhausted. A few minutes prior, we had to have a chat about a misbehaviour. It was one of those things that I couldn’t let slide, no matter how tired she was.
I held her close and stroked her hair. “Sweetie, look at me.” When I had her attention, I continued. “I will always be proud of you. You misbehaved but that doesn’t make me any less proud of you. You’re my girl! I’ll always love you and be proud of you. No matter what.”
I stood in the foyer, holding her tight until the sobs subsided.
Later that night, I sat alone in my room and this time it was my tears that were flowing.
“Lord, I’m such a mess up,” I sobbed. “I’ve messed up too badly. I’m such a disappointment to You. I know that You’re ashamed of me. There is absolutely no hope for me.”
Over the years, I’ve wanted desperately to talk to someone about my sin—a pastor or someone who could offer some sort of authoritative reassurance—but I was always far too scared that they would instead confirm my deepest, darkest fear—that what I did was too big to be covered by grace.
Many times, my husband would hold me while I cried. Tired of trying to reason with me, he would finally say, “You’ll find out when you meet Jesus but, until then, just serve Him the best you can.”
And I tried. But it wasn’t enough. Even while hearing God’s voice and seeing His hand at work in my life, there was always that undercurrent of doubt.
I needed peace.
As I sat alone in my room after that Thursday night prayer meeting, I thought about my daughter’s words: “You’re not proud of me anymore.” Was my response towards God much different?
What about His response towards me? Was He truly disappointed in me? Or did He love me despite the fact that I sat silent when it mattered most? Despite my sin? Could I really just reach out and grab hold of grace, undeserving as I am?
Is it that easy?
You see, the problem with grace is that it doesn’t make sense. It’s not something we deserve; it’s not something we can earn. It’s not something we will ever be able to wrap our heads around.
I was reading Romans 5 the other day. It says, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” (vs. 1-2).
You guys, there’s the answer. Right there.
God isn’t going to revoke His offer of salvation just because we mess up. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin. “I want to do what is right, but I can’t,” he said. “What a miserable man I am!” (Romans 7:19,23). The beautiful thing is that, no matter who we are and no matter what we’ve done, God’s love is unchanging and His mercy unending.
At the moment of salvation, God knew all our sins—past, present and future. He knew that we would make mistakes. He even knew what those mistakes would be. Yet He accepted us anyway.
That doesn’t give us license to sin. And that doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to walk away from the covering of His grace. But if we remain in Him? He remains in us.
God knew that I would fail Him in that coffee shop way back when. He knew that I would fail Him a million times a day since then. He knows that I will continue to fail Him again and again until the day I die.
Yet He offers me a place of undeserved privilege. A place of forgiveness. A place of peace.
And He offers the same to you.
It’s breathtakingly illogical.
But that’s grace.