I am reading Ann Voskamp's book, "One Thousand Gifts" with the ladies of my church. You can read our blog here. I was in charge of writing on chapter 5 of the book. It was so good I thought I should share it here.
To be honest, this was a hard chapter. Reading on grace, suffering in the world, and God’s goodness in all of it reminded me of how I’d struggled with this very thing for so long. I surely don’t have all the answers, but I'd like to discuss a little of what I've learned along the way.
As I write this, my mind goes directly to a story in the book of the author's son, Levi, breaking his finger in a fan accident. He needed surgery but would recover. It could have been so much worse, but as her mom said, that by“God’s grace”, it wasn’t. At the same time as Levi’s accident there is a Mennonite family that loses their 13 year old son in a farming accident.
I have my own story, as a nurse, when I worked in the NICU.
Amanda had triplets that were 24 weeks. They tried for ten years to have babies. I am working fervently to save her little boy. She had already lost her only girl earlier in the week, so I prayed and worked for hours only to have him die too. Before she goes to hold him for the last time she throws herself on me and cries out to God in anguish, “God, please, can’t I just have one baby?! Please don’t take them all!”
I look at her one surviving son and pray the same thing myself. At that moment I feel my own baby kicking in my womb. She would be our fourth baby.
What is God’s grace?
Was it God’s grace that Levi was fine and that even though I ended up with 16 weeks of bed-rest, I had a healthy baby girl?
What then of that Mennonite family and Amanda, who had just lost two out of three of her children?
Was God’s grace not on them as well?
Is God’s grace only the good that happens in our lives?
What are the other moments then?
Many times people struggle to make sense out of things like this. Many become angry and bitter. As Christians it is tricky because we know God loves us and we love Him, but still the questions are there.
“Why, God, can’t everybody be healed? Why is there so much pain? Why, God, why?”
What if our perspective is wrong?
Ann says perspective is how we see things with our eyes.
On our own, how we see things are very dim. We are in darkness, actually.
The Word of God is a lens that puts our perspective right.
Without God’s Word as a lens, the world warps.
We have to always turn to God and His word to see things how God does.
“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” Matthew 6:22-23
Listen to the words of Job, “…should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” Job 2:10
While everyone can easily ask for and accept the good, can we accept the bad as Job did? While no one is eager to suffer, we as Christians have the promise that, “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him…” Romans 8:28
God uses those dark moments of pain to birth something new. Just as we labor in pain and suffering during childbirth to bring forth a new life. Can we trust God, that He loves us so much that he labors with us to birth grief into greater grace?
Ann calls this processugly-beautiful. That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful. The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace. The God of the Mount of Transfiguration cannot cease His work of transfiguring moments- making all that is dark, evil, and empty into that which is all light, grace, and full.
Amanda did take that last baby home. His name was Jonathon which means “God has given” or “Gift of God”. How fitting as God took her pain and began to birth a new beginning with that sweet, baby boy.
Suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart.
We need to give thanks for all things at all times because
All is grace