Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Mechanics of Grace

The other day I spent some time with someone who has been through the meat grinder of life. He's endured the loss of a family member, the abandonment of his closest friends, and experienced a loss of passion in his career. That's only the beginning.

As he shared his heart with me I found I could identify with a lot of his pain. Not all of it, obviously, but much of what he confessed to me resonated with what I have been feeling lately.

Then he asked me to pray for him. So, as I began to lift him up in prayer to God I found that I was really praying for myself as well. I began to ask God for the same measure of blessing, and hope, and comfort, that I required in my own empty heart.

During the prayer I confessed to God, and to my friend, that I really don't know how to give God my burdens. Too often when I am depressed or discouraged I find something to distract myself from the pain. Rather than going to God with my problems, I turn to entertainment, or activities, or food, or other people, to help me forget the pain and dull the sorrow.

I know that we are told to "cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you", and I really believe that all of that is true, but to be very honest, I'm not very good at doing that. Not at all.

So, as I prayed for this brother in Christ, I began to ask God to teach me, and to help my friend, to learn how to actually take our burdens, our pain, our suffering, our disappointments, and cast them at the feet of Jesus.

Again, I do not know how to do this. I know that God's word instructs me to do it. I know how to pray those words. I know how to say, "Jesus, I give you my pain. Please take this burden away." But I do not know how to actually leave my burden with Jesus. I don't know how to come to Him with my pain and walk away with hope. I don't know how to come to Him with defeat and walk away with joy. That is what I want to learn how to do. That's what I need to do.

Maybe you know what this feels like? Maybe you're struggling with some of the same issues of doubt, of defeat, of apathy, of sadness, of pain. Maybe you also tend to look for relief in places other than the presence of God. Maybe you turn to food, or television, or video games, or film, or sex, or drugs, or other people. If so, maybe you've already started to realize that those things do not work. They only delay the pain, at best, and accentuate the sensation of emptiness at worse.

Maybe, like me, you're ready to learn how to put these words of hope into practice. Maybe you're ready, out nothing more than desperation, to discover how to actually turn to Jesus with your pain and surrender your burden to Him, and walk away filled with hope and life and, yes, perhaps even joy.

How does it work? What are the magic words? How many steps are involved? Do I need to attend a seminar or purchase a book to make it click?

Here's what I believe: God knows that we are weak. He remembers that we are made from dust. If there were six steps then He would have told us what those were. Since He told us to simply "cast our cares upon Him because He cares" then, by faith, I think we need to start there.

By faith. That's the secret. We stop trying to map everything out and we just do what He says. We believe. We put our hope - all of it - in His power to heal us, and change us, and restore us.

We turn away from all of those other distractions that we have tried and failed to receive our hope and life and joy from, and we instead turn straight for Jesus with our pain. We come to Him first. We make turning to Him our first, and our immediate, act when the pain and the sorrow begins to wash over us.

This is what I have decided to do. I put my hope in Him. I trust in Him. I am calling His bluff because I am convinced it might not be a bluff at all.

"Why are you so downcast, oh my soul? I will yet praise Him, my savior and king."



Erik Merksamer said...

Right on bro. I can so relate to finding other things to take my mind off the burdens. The secret? "Faith" Yes, Keith! That's it man. Thanks for keeping it simple, at risk of being cliche. Fatherhood has been teaching me this idea of faith in so many rich ways. "Childlike faith"....always my desire.

NoahM said...

Fully with you there Keith! Honestly living by our faith is more than just our words. We can all say the right things about our faith, but truly giving Him our cares and trusting that He will care for and heal us is usually more than we can believe. We try, but can't seem to fully let go. Just in case it doesn't work - this time - we tell ourselves. Of course, not ever letting go fully and therefore never really experiencing the joy that He so wants us to have. Easy to say, but like you, I try but can't quite do it!

the alternative1 said...

Man that is perfect Keith..I will tell you a one time I went three days with no food and I was broke..I was sitting in my truck looking at a Wendy's and a mcdonalds and I had a cell phone...I told my Father-ok dad you say you love me and here I am starving with no money and I could go and steal some food or I could call some people and beg for some food but I'm just going to sit here and trust you to provide...about five minutes later the phone rang and a friend said why don't you come over and have some pizza with us..the next day this same friend came to me and gave me twenty bucks for more food for the day.