uncomfortable grace

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.                   1 Peter 1:6-9

  

Be truly glad while in trials? How is it that knowing that wonderful joy is ahead can bring me joy now? It’s tempting to simply write these things off as simply being for those who are “further along” than we are. Or, we could learn to think of our trials in a different light. We could choose to see what God is doing when we are hurting. Recently I listened to Paul Tripp preach on the something he called uncomfortable grace. It makes so much sense when reading verses like this.

 

Here’s what Tripp says:

 

We had better begin to teach and encourage and comfort one another with the theology of uncomfortable grace. Because often times this side of eternity grace comes to us in uncomfortable forms. I long for the grace of relief and I long for the grace of release and some day that will actually come. But right now I need the grace of refinement. I need to be changed. I need to be transformed. I need to become a person of faith…And so in love God will take me beyond my wisdom, beyond my strength, beyond the bounds of my character, beyond my righteousness. And he will cause me to throw myself on him. That’s not God forgetting me or beating me up or being unfaithful and un-attentive. The Bible calls that grace. I’m being rescued. I’m being restored. I’m being changed. He loves me and he will not turn from his work. He will continue and continue and continue until that work is complete. That’s grace.

 

So I should be truly glad. I should be genuinely thankful in trials. Not because the trials are fun—they are heart-rending. Not because I get morbid satisfaction from suffering. I should find joy because I know that in everything God, and God alone, will see me through. Because in all of it I can know that God in his grace gives me what I need to make me into who I should become. Because I know that in grace God loves me enough to allow me hardship in order that I will experience rescue. Not just ultimate rescue someday when I die and go to heaven, but rescue today as well. Rescue from my inattention and waywardness.

 

The truth is that the moments of difficulty in my life aren’t evidence that God has forgotten or abandoned or simply isn’t real. The hardships are sure signs of his redemptive love. Sure signs that he is continuing at his work of refining me. It is so fitting to call this uncomfortable grace. I don’t like this. I don’t want this. But I do want what comes from it—God working to change my heart. That is indeed grace even if it comes uncomfortably into my life.

 

I cannot genuinely say thank to God when I am suffering loss or pain. It would be a lie. I’m not thankful for pain. I’m not thankful when people hurt me or when they die or when the broken world wields its wicked destruction my way. I am not thankful when my own sin creates consequences my soul cannot bear.  I am not thankful when those I love suffer. But I am thankful that God is using whatever means necessary to transform me. I can thank him for what he is doing in my pain. I can genuinely thank him for this uncomfortable grace that transforms my soul. To think that God is taking my heartache and suffering and turning it into something beautiful and redemptive—this is more than I deserve.

 

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

 

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