This Grace in Which We Stand

There’s a danger in being honest with yourself. A danger that the honest version of you is grubbier than you would ever dream. More broken. More fragile. More vulnerable to attack, belittlement, shame, and sorrow.

This sensation can intensify while living abroad. Cultural transition is already a vulnerable position. When you attempt it alone, the powers of darkness seem to take special care in plotting your downfall.

Or so it can seem.

While I lived by myself abroad for two years, I felt like I lost something every day. There was the bevy of people and things that I loved and left in order to go abroad. Then there were events that I lost out on because I was on the other side of the world: the birth of my sister’s first baby, my grandfather’s funeral. There were all the holidays and special days, all the happenings I knew when leaving home I would miss while abroad.

But the losses also included things that I didn’t expect to lose. The pieces of myself that broke off into my hands as I tried to hold myself together. The ways I defined myself. The characteristics I thought I possessed. The person I thought I was.

As the pieces broke away, what lay beneath began to show. Personal revelations began to surface. Sins of my own creation that I had been harboring for countless years and never looked at. I was crushed. Who was this woman?

Some people go abroad under the pretext of finding themselves. The assumption is that finding yourself will be glorious. To wake up to the realization that perhaps you have found yourself—and you are much worse than you thought you were—is breathtaking. The darkness closes in and you wonder if all is lost.

I mentally fled. God didn’t want this, didn’t want me. How could God forgive me when I couldn’t forgive myself? 

Humans have a strong tendency toward egocentric thinking. We start with us and extrapolate out. Yet when we start with ourselves, we can get the picture horribly skewed. I assumed that God wanted me the way I felt I should be, the way I thought I was until I lost the covering I had accumulated over twenty plus years. I assumed that because I couldn’t forgive myself, He could not either. But that is a lie from hell.

In Romans 5, Paul says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). Still sinners. What a wonder our God is! We were still sinners, still miserable sinners, but as Paul puts it a few verses before, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1).

I found myself often turning to this passage of Romans. In fact, I tracked my progress via the stages of suffering Paul outlines: “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (vv. 3-5).

Over and over again in the Bible, it is God’s actions, God’s love, God’s forgiveness that is acting, redeeming, renewing, and healing. It is all Him and all His. I am neither righteous nor good, but God, in His boundless mercy, forgave me. Forgave me long before I ever sat alone in my gray apartment, convicted of sins I didn’t have the luxury to avoid anymore. He was always there, with His love. Nothing changed with Him.

The reason hope does not disappoint is because God does not.  With His love in our hearts, we have surety of Him. And that makes the world and our suffering feel very small.

An unforeseen side effect of my hardships abroad was that it left me with nothing to cling to but the hope of God’s love and forgiveness. In turn, I found it near impossible to look at the people of this new culture with anything but love. I had been stripped of all I held dear, including my pride and good opinion of myself. All I had left was God’s love. It was all I felt I had to give the people around me.

And God knows, that’s all they needed.

In what areas of your life are you denying yourself the forgiveness of God? Are you ready to stand in His unconditional love?

5 Comments

  1. Stephanie April 10, 2017

    So much truth here!

  2. Dawn April 11, 2017

    I appreciate this article very much. Everything has been stripped away in my life again and again..until only the covering of the blood of Jesus remains. It has almost gotten “normal” to be vulnerable and broken. Yet recently a team member said she has a word of the Lord for me that I was filled with darkness with a root of blackness that causes me to seek the attention of the opposite sex. I have seriously been through inner healing and walked through having the mind of Christ against the fear of rejection and abandonment…all of it. To me that is an old battle and its under the blood. But this sensitivity I’ve gained to be absolutly vulnerable to the Lord’s Presence and His conviction causes me to be agonizing in torment! One minuet I am confident that this is a spiritual attack. The next I’m like, “well…there was a root there before like this…maybe it wasn’t gone? Why didn’t God tell me? Was I so blinded that He had to scream it?”. This is agony. I am in the secret place of the Most High and trying to hear His voice. I’m in pain one minuet and comforted the next.

    1. Michele April 11, 2017

      Dawn, it really sounds to me like you are dealing with accusation / condemnation which comes from the enemy even if the ‘word’ came through a well-meaning sister. Of course I’m only going on what you’ve written here (and the witness in my own spirit)… but you seem to be very open and honestly desiring to grow in your walk with Jesus, which means that if His Spirit speaks to you about an area of sin or darkness in your heart, you’re going to know it’s Him and feel the SWEETNESS of conviction and grace to repent- NOT tormented! Seriously, true conviction always has a sweetness to it- It hurts, but you can feel His love for you in it. There’s a possibility this person misinterpreted some action of yours, but this does not seem to be a true ‘word of the Lord’. I’m praying for peace for you right now. Since you are being vulnerable, please ask one or two people who know you well if they see anything like this in your life and ask them to be specific if they do, and then to pray for you. And if they say they don’t, believe them and believe Jesus and ask them to pray with you to break off that accusation!

    2. Rebekah April 11, 2017

      Dear Dawn, I am praying for you now, for peace.

      Late in the life of the Apostle John, he wrote a little gem of a book about love. I think it would do your heart a world of good to spend some time with 1 John, as you rest in God’s presence. In this book, John writes about the all-surpassing love of God, as well as testing the spirits that would lie to us and quieting our hearts that would condemn us. God does not want you to be in agony. He wants you to have confidence in His love! Christ suffered so that you would not have to.

      As for what your team member said, test this spirit. If you find no truth in it – and even if you do! – take confidence in God’s love. You are a dear daughter of the Lord Most High. His testimony is of greater value than any person’s, and He declares you redeemed and free. His extraordinary peace be with you.

  3. Dawn April 11, 2017

    Thank you so much. This is very confirming with what God has been speaking. I am going deep with Jesus and His surpasses all my hopes and expectations. Looking forward to hanging my heart over the book of 1 John this morning!

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