by Paul Tripp
Perhaps, sometime recently you’ve been thinking, "Life is hard. I don’t know if I have what it takes to live God's way.” Or maybe you’ve wondered how in the world you can do what God calls you to do as a husband or wife, a parent, friend, relative, worker, neighbor, citizen, or member of the body of Christ in the middle of the busyness of your schedule and the catalog of other responsibilities you carry. Maybe you’ve been thinking, “It seems exhausting just to maintain the status quo let alone working to make things in my life better!” Maybe God's street-level call of daily self-sacrificing love for God and neighbor has left you a bit hopeless and discouraged. Or maybe you’ve had to face the fact that you simply don’t have it inside you to fight the good fight in this fallen world. Perhaps yesterday's failure has left you despondent and discouraged. Maybe a situation, relationship, conversation or a book has given you a lens on yourself and, sadly, you’ve realized that things aren’t what you thought. Perhaps you’re feeling the standard is too high and the work too hard.
Maybe all this has revealed how selfish your heart really is and left you feeling weak and unable. Well, I am about to say something that will surprise you. If this has been your response, then you’re in a very good place. Let me remind you that this is one of the uncomfortable gifts that God is working to give you. He’s designed the right here, right now situations of life to expose the neediness of your heart and, in so doing, to bring you to the end of yourself. Why does God do this? He does it because he knows that its only when you abandon your own wisdom, strength, and righteousness that you’ll begin to get excited about his grace.
What is your hope? This may seem strange to read at this point, but it must be said: the hope of your life isn’t all the principles, insights, and perspectives found in Scripture. No, the hope of your life can be captured in one glorious, powerful, and transforming word—grace. Without rescuing, empowering, forgiving, transforming and delivering grace, the principles of the Bible would only leave you discouraged and overwhelmed. God’s grace guarantees that you, in your struggle, will never be alone. God’s grace assures you that when you’ve blown it, there’s forgiveness to be found. Grace means that there’s strength available when you’re weak. Grace assures you that there’s wisdom for the moments when you don’t know what to do. Grace gives you hope when there seems little to be found. Grace enables you to get up and move forward when inside you want to quit or run away. Grace reminds you again and again that you’re not alone.
You see, God knows that this side of heaven there are ways in which we all are weak and unable. There are ways we all fall below his standards. So he’s given us the only thing that will rescue, restore, and mobilize us. He’s given us himself! In his grace he invades our situations, locations and relationships. He comes with power we don’t possess, wisdom unnatural to us, and love beyond anything we’ve ever known. He’s willing to let you see how weak you actually are so that you’ll begin to seek what you can find only in him. What you should be afraid of in your life isn’t your weakness; being needy is a good place to be. No, what you should be afraid of are your delusions of arrival and strength. When you think you’ve arrived, and when you’re convinced you’re strong, you don’t reach out for the incredible resources of grace that God freely offers, which will give you what you need to live in a way that by yourself you could never live.
Jack and Shannon were exhausted and discouraged because they had no hope; nothing they did made things better. They felt helpless and alone with no place to turn. Jack knew that he shouldn’t be so angry, but he was. Shannon knew she shouldn’t be bitter and judgmental, but she didn’t know how to deal with her disappointment. There were moments of peace, but those moments were increasingly infrequent and fleeting. The distance and tension between them seemed to grow every day. Their home was no longer a refuge to either one.
Rather than doing the hard work of dealing with their problems, Jack and Shannon developed the skill of working around their problems. But as their problems grew, it became impossible for them to work around them anymore. Their marriage was no longer peaceful and enjoyable. Their home was no longer a place of rest and retreat. So they sat in front of me, exhausted and discouraged. But I knew that it was the exhaustion and discouragement of grace. I knew that God hadn’t turned his back on them but was with them, in them, and for them. And I knew that God had their attention in fresh and new ways.
I didn’t start by laying on them all the insights and principles about marriage that Scripture contains. I knew that that would leave them even more overwhelmed. No, for the first few weeks we met together, I did only one thing: I worked to help them see Jesus. I knew that when they began to see and trust his presence, promises, power, and faithfulness, they would begin to think that maybe they could hope to experience what marriage was designed to be, and they would be willing to do the hard work that would get them there. I knew that they would live with the assurance that God would always give them what they need in order to do what he called them to do.
Jack and Shannon didn't need a lecture in God's law. They knew their marriage was a mess and that what they were doing was wrong. What they needed was a fresh vision of God's grace; a vision of grace so huge and glorious that their problems would seem tiny in comparison. It was God who drove them to the end of themselves so that they would do the one thing they hadn't done for a long time, reach out for his transforming grace.
Are you reaching out?