The sweet smell of pine surrounds me all the way down the lane to the mailbox. The fresh scent is heavier than usual. We had an early morning shower that cooled things down a bit and the clouds are just now giving way to a beaming sun that is baking the pine-needle-carpet, running along both sides of the lane, into an even darker golden brown. I stop to take a deep breath and to worship the Father who is kind enough to provide this moment—this quiet bit of respite and beauty.
Just this morning, I read about His ownership and rule over His creation, and breathing in this pine-scented evidence of His goodness is a cause for worship. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not worshiping the creation, how silly that would be—but I’m worshipping the One who has the creative intellect to bring the molecules into existence, and does so with artistic flair. I’m worshipping the One who not only creates, but sustains.
I’m worshipping the One who cares enough about my needy heart to surround me with the caress of a pine-scented morning walk, and cares enough to pour out manifold grace in our lives.
We’re drawing close to a year. A year since LeRoy’s three-week hospital stay, but really it’s been much longer than a year because he started struggling with symptoms two years before that. As the anniversary of that hospital stay draws closer, and we’ve seen no improvement at all, I’ve been thinking about the four words, four truths—graces really—that have kept me tethered to the sufficiency of Christ and the reliability of His Word. Four graces that I’m thanking Him for as I take that walk down the lane under tall pines.
Would you like to know what those four graces are? Perhaps they are also carrying you right now—or will be graces that you can rely on in the future.
(I don’t normally alliterate things . . . it just turns out that all of these start with the same letter and that’s helpful for me, especially right now when I’m terribly forgetful in my continually sleep-deprived state!)
With the complete upending of our “normal” lifestyle, I really can’t make promises anymore. So, I’m not promising, but I’m hoping to write a post about each of these graces over the next several weeks. Today, I just want to introduce them and say a quick word of explanation about each one.
- Purpose: The intrinsic reason behind the action. The true meaning within, behind, and beneath the event. The cause and the motivation. The reason for being.
Purpose is necessary to live a productive and joy-filled life. God graciously provides us with this purpose and includes it in His instructions for life. More on this first grace in my next post (hopefully).
- Providence: Literally, it means to “see before” or to have foresight. But, when we use it in reference to God, it includes more than just having foresight, to be “panoptic” or all-seeing; providence is the combination of the foresight with the overseeing care of what is being watched. It is God weaving His provision into our lives, even when we’re unaware that He is the Orchestrator of those details.
God’s gracious providence provides us with the comfort and assurance that He really is watching over us. Just as the sparrow’s fall is in his sight, the heartache, sorrow, struggle, and pain you and I endure is under His watchful eye. And He’s not “watching” from a distance; no, He is very much involved and even providing what we need as we face the challenges of the day.
- Promise: Guarantee. Oath. Covenant. Pledge. The word you can depend on—no matter what.
The difficult thing about Scriptural “promises” are that we often misunderstand what is being promised. We take God’s pledge of commitment completely out of context and if we’re not careful, when the “promise” doesn’t arrive we’ll blame God as though He’s not kept His Word. I hope to explain more about what promises have held my heart as we’ve walked through the longest and most difficult season we’ve ever faced. God’s promises graciously fuel our hope.
- Presence: The abiding and tangible fellowship with the Triune God. It is an awareness that God is very much “other” but has chosen to be very much “here” in the midst of our lives. Immanuel: God with us.
Walking through the fire with the presence of God is what allows the dying martyr to worship Him—even as the flames consume the body. The presence of God is what the young mom clings to, and finds comfort in, as she sits vigil over her dying child. The presence of God is what protects us from giving way to unbelief in the face of horrifying events. God abiding with us in our pain is grace beyond compare.
This is my attempt at putting into words my own definitions for these four graces. You’d be better off consulting a dictionary to find a more precise definition—but this is what I’m meaning when I use these words.
When the apostle Paul was suffering from his severe affliction, his “thorn in the flesh,” and pleading with God to remove it, the Lord assured him that His grace was sufficient for Paul’s weakness:
[box]But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).[/box]
God’s grace comes in different forms, according to our need, but always that God’s power would rest on us—for God’s glory. In 1 Peter, grace is described as “manifold” or diverse in nature. There are manifold ways that God’s grace empowers us for service and works in our lives. These four “graces” are precious provisions that I’ve seen God bring throughout this season, and I’m excited to share them with you.
How is His grace at work in your life today?
[box]Dear Friends, your prayers are a tangible means of God’s grace in our lives. If you are new to the blog, and unaware of what we’re walking through and how we need your prayers, I hope you’ll read this post from the archives. Even though I’m unable to respond to your comments, I do read every one. For those who share prayer needs, I lift those to the Father and am so grateful to be entrusted with your prayer request. I love to hear from you, so please continue to leave your comments knowing that they matter![/box]