Grace under Fire

The day after 4th of July celebrations my family spent it swimming, enjoying milk shakes, hot dogs, and watermelon – all favorite foods of our three-year-old daughter, but she was acting strangely. Suddenly when it was time to eat she was lethargic and refused to eat anything.

We brought her home that evening for a quick bath and tucked her into bed. Come midnight we were jolted out of a sound sleep by cries coming from the hall outside our bedroom. Stumbling through the dark, I grabbed my robe and clumsily wrapped it around me. Opening the door from our room I found our little girl curled up in a ball on the floor. Together we staggered to the restroom by the dim glow of a night-light. She was shaking like a leaf, all wispy and damp like when a storm blows in.

Then it happened. I ran to grab a basin, one of those the nurse sends home from labor and delivery, my husband standing wide eyed in the doorway of the bathroom. The glazed frantic look melted from his face as he realized the need and rushed to grab a wet wash cloth and thermometer.

In those moments of emergency, when as a parent you look into your child’s tearful face and hear her pain filled cries, the heart of a loving parent doesn’t beat twice before making the choice to lay down your life for your child. You die to self and do whatever is needed to comfort and protect your babe.

As the bath faucet gushed, filling the tub with cool relief, I dabbed her forehead with a cloth. Her skin felt like a furnace. Prayers poured forth like the running water, hushing rhythmically. 102.9 blinked across the digital screen of the thermometer. She managed to climb into the water extinguishing the heat from her skin.

In the physical world heat is a catalyst for healing and transfiguration. We see this in all of nature. With the heat of summer trees shed leaves and flowers drop so that fruit can grow; snow caps melt into streams and rivers and water evaporates as steam into the atmosphere, cycling into rain clouds; wilderness burns to clear landscapes for new growth; the hammer drops heavy onto molten precious metal shaping it into new form and function.

At the onset of infection the body builds its defenses against the foreign invaders and raises the body temperature by a few degrees. We experience fever: hot flashes, chills, headache and body aches. The body is in full attack mode on the front lines against the enemy. Heat is a marvelous tool the immune system uses to promote healing and restoration.

Under intense pressure cells experience change, energy is transferred, and the old thing is by this force made into something new. Creator God had very intentionally employed the use of divine force to transfigure every element of the universe. In the beginning, light was the essential element to all of creation and necessary before life could even exist.

Then God said, “Let there be light,”and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. – Genesis 1:3-4

The energy needed to ignite a single spark, transferring millions of synchronized reactions at the atomic level, produces instantaneous change called the tipping point. The result is experiential, an outcome we can see and feel.

The next few nights we sat by our little girl’s bed, wiping away tears, administering medication, applying cold packs, offering comfort to our fragile child. We laid our hands upon her in prayers for healing and relief.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16
With fervent honesty, uninhibited like a child with her father I inquired of the Lord, What is the grace in this? What are we to gather in suffering like this?

On the third day of our child’s illness, I had finished some chores and sat down in a large stuffed chair to watch a movie with my girl as she rested. A dear friend telephoned and we soaked in the moment to chat. I was beginning to feel a bit warm and feverish myself. With each minute that passed in our conversation, I became more fatigued, likely coming down with the virus that had made my daughter so ill.

In sharing with my friend about the illness in our home, she reminded me about the story of Job and what his wife had said to him after Job had suffered from boils all over his body. His wife declared, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. – Job 2:10

I thought of Job, whom the Lord had allowed to be tested. God allowed Satan to inquire of the Lord about Job because of his righteousness. And Satan struck Job with sores all over his body.

Within two days, the illness had completely debilitated me. My husband took on the role of nurse, mommy, and daddy for the next few days, bringing soup, tea, tissues, thermometer, and cold packs, as well as taking care of our little girl, who was already stir crazy from being house bound all week.

My phone chimed in notifications of concerned friends, sisters in the Lord, who were praying, offering meals, and dropping care packages at our door step. Every one of them grace God’s mercy in the midst of suffering.
Yet among the tidings of grace followed a fire storm of trials, all within a few days. I received news of a momma who had just delivered a tiny baby boy, only 2 lbs, who was born with a heart defect. A loved one whose daughter had been recovering from drug addiction was again showing signs of substance abuse. My father informed me that Grandma had fallen again and had been admitted to the hospital. A phone call from Mom revealed that a family member had died suddenly in an accident. And in the middle of the night, I received a text from one of my dearest friends who had just experienced a tragic loss that hit too close to home.
Closing my eyes, I winced in pain. Searing, throbbing sores covered my hands and the soles of my feet from the viral rash. But these were only physical manifestations of the spiritual anguish that wrenched through the heart.
My friend relayed how the family had waited for the coroner to release the body so they could proceed with arrangements. And I remembered that sick in the stomach feeling, pangs of grief, eyes that burn like sand paper because there are no more tears to be cried, head pounding from the strain of sorrow.

I remembered when we received word seven years ago…my brother-in-law, only sixteen years old — too young to succumb to the pressure of darkness that weighed so heavily on the soul that it seemed easier for him to close the door and let the dark swallow him in — asphyxiated in the stranglehold of depression, until the light grew dim in the eyes and the noise of the world faded into silence.

I remembered how in the months that followed we dared to live. To fully live in the grace of this one beautiful life that felt more like a gift because the breath was in the lungs and hope pursued like the rising sun because the Son had risen and awakened new life.
On my night stand laid a book that had taught me to see — to see God in each moment, even the hardest ones.
Desperate to remember grace in all the loss, my fingers flipped hungrily through pages that unveil truth, a salve for the wounded heart.

But awakening to joy awakens to pain.

Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living. Pages of the gratitude journal fill endlessly. Yet I know it in the vein and the visceral: life is loss. Every day, the gnawing…

What in the world, in a world of certain loss, is grace?

…If I name this moment as gift, grace, what is the the next moment? Curse?

…What is good? What counts as grace? What is the heart of God?

…All God makes is good. Can it be that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective?The way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining.

Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perseverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?

”Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body,” Jesus said. “When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Without God’s Word as a lens, the world warps.

Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, pp. 84-91.

And what of this body anyway? Why the constant flailing, fainting, and faltering of this weak and crooked body?

How is it that we get so attached to this life that it wrenches the human soul to lose this suit of flesh? When the Savior himself counted it as nothing, even as his flesh was beaten and torn and driven through, even unto the cross?

Then declaring the old thing dead, He lavishly drapes upon our shoulders robes of righteousness, the Bride of Christ, promise of a new creation, heavenly bodies in the eternal splendor of His Light in Whom there is no darkness at all.

Here on earth we stumble about through the dark forgetting that His presence was made flesh and dwelt among men. God with us, Emmanuel.

In the book of Judges, when Gideon positioned his army of a mere 300 men around the enemy camp, outnumbered 450 to 1. With those odds, God wanted to make sure that his chosen people could not take any credit for the victory He was about to win on their behalf. All they held in their hands for weapons were a horn in one hand and a torch in the other. They were to conceal the torch’s flame with a clay pot until the men had received the command to advance against the enemy, at which time they would crush the pot allowing the light to be exposed and reveal their positions surrounding and overcoming the enemy.

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. — 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

Clay pots. I always knew I was a crack pot — a little quirky, rough around the edges — little did I realize how valuable my weakness could be. That the very thing which had always threatened to crush and destroy me could even be used as a vessel of light.

There are times in our walk with God when it is necessary to light the fire under our lives. Like a blazing torch in a clay pot. And at the right time, when we are broken, His illuminating presence is revealed in such a way that the darkness flees and the great enemy is destroyed. He separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4). The victory has already been won on our behalf. All that is required of us is to carry the torch that bears His light.

How do you respond when the pressure builds in your life? When the heat is turned up and you feel consumed by the flames? What should my response be when caught in a barrage, under heavy fire?

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. — 2 Corinthians 4:18

 

Comments

  1. It is such a blessing that God allows us to share His word with each other, pray for and encourage one another through the trials; especially knowing each others' stories and where we've come from and what our beloved friends and family are going through, it is a gift to share these things together. God is good to us. Love you Jess <3

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