Sustaining Grace

Grief is exhausting.  Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We may often pray for relief asking for this heavy burden to be taken away.  We are then often disappointed or frustrated when that doesn’t happen. It may feel that our prayers for deliverance from the pain and sorrow go unanswered.  We want a Red Sea moment. Instead, God offers us something else that we can easily miss — the sustaining grace to endure every day. Our prayers for deliverance are answered with something more needful: the gift of sustenance.

If we only look for miraculous deliverance from the trial of life (including grief), we overlook the grace that mercifully keeps drawing us close to our God.  We want to be rid of it. Thankfully, God has something much grander and ultimately better in mind for us. That is the power of a transcendent, eternal perspective.  Our prayers may seem unanswered until we step back and then see them fulfilled in ways that keep us more dependent, needy, and holding fast to the rock of our faith.

The children of Israel wrestled with appreciating the daily gift of sustenance in their long years of wandering the wilderness.  God daily provided manna to meet their physical needs and prevent starvation. (Ex. 16) Yet, even in that gift of sustenance there was the test of faith and trust.  God providentially would not allow them to hoard it so as to keep the Israelites from avoiding that kind of needful, daily dependence on Him.

How many times though did they disdain the gift of daily manna?  (Num. 11) They complained. They wanted something more or something different.  Our hearts are quick to rightly judge their unbelief and spirit of complaining. Yet, we then are prone to do the same especially in our grief.  We want something more than the plain, boring, daily, and monotonous grace just like the Israelites wanted something other than manna. The manna was taken for granted.  It was the standard expectation that God provided day after day, month after month, year after year.

I confess that it is a similar challenge I have faced.  I fail to appreciate and be grateful for God’s continuous presence and help, each and every day.  He sustains me with strength when I am weak. (Isa. 40:31) He gives me eyes of faith to see. (Eph. 1:18)  He gives His Word to lift my soul out of never ending sorrow (Ps. 119:28), and give us life-sustaining power.  (Jn. 6:63)

If you and I were to look back over our lives, we could see those miraculous mountain-top experience of deliverance that God did.  Those memories ought to stir us with gratitude and faith. Sometimes though when we are still in that deep, and dark valley those past moments can feel so far and distant as if they might never happen again.  In that, we can instead turn to the more recent tests of “wait” and “no” to the cries of our heart. Those are the more immediate situations in which when we look closer we can see the deeper work in our souls.  Those answers force us to reckon with the question of “are we really seeking the Giver, or just His gifts?” When we humble ourselves, we acknowledge our need and seek Him better. In that quest, we find joy as our faith is tested and perfected.  (James 1)

Sustaining grace is just as precious a gift as delivering grace, and in grief many times, even more precious.  One of the most frequent prayers I have prayed since Sarah went home, has been the prayer for God not to let me forget the things that I have learned.  And I have found Him faithful to answer most often in that kind of daily dependence that comes in the sorrow and anguish. I see the daily grace and how He is more precious as a result.  

That kind of grace showcases God’s glory in and through us.  Other people see in the midst of our grief what God is doing as He daily bears us up.  We see that glory in how He is transforming our character to be more like Christ. (Rom. 8:26-30)  When we ask for delivering grace, God is answering in the waiting with sustaining grace. So, don’t stop praying for relief and deliverance.  Just then look for the answer to that prayer in the daily sustenance and dependence as well. This grace brings with it the intimate presence of our living God and all the power of transformation that He brings.  That is a far better and more precious answer to prayer than we realize.

This is a draft excerpt from my ongoing booklet project on how to grieve Biblically.

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