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I am wondering as I reflect on my own journey with Jesus, why it is that God is doing the things he does in my life, in our lives. I think about snippets of conversations I have had over the past week, turning over in my mind and heart what those conversations betray about what we think life is about.

Those thoughts that somehow, life is “not fair” if things aren’t going well for us. If we are facing hardship–in relationship, in marriage, in work, in family–we readily conclude that there must be something wrong with the world (and, candidly, there must be something just a little amiss in how God is managing things!). It’s easy to slip into thinking that if we are intentional about “walking with the Lord” then, of course, life should get easier, challenges should be diminished, and ease increased.

That idea that if we are seeking to live right that others should recognize it and affirm us . . . or at least we shouldn’t be on the receiving end of criticism! When we are not affirmed and valued and appreciated we readily conclude that someone is holding out on us (and, candidly, we act as if it is God’s responsibility to get those others people to be appreciative and affirming!). Seeking to keep in step with the Spirit and order our thinking by the Word of God, it’s easy to adopt the idea that living that way is ultimately our way to earn appreciation from others.

But when I pause long enough to honestly reflect on what God is doing in our lives, I soon realize that such perspectives fall short of a Biblically realistic view of what our good God is up to. And I’m driven back to Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7)

So much here . . . much we could unpack. But there is a trajectory launched in this text that gives me a better perspective.

God made us alive. He did this because he was rich in mercy and because he loves us. But the end point of what he is doing is not so that others might approve us, that family and friends might affirm us, that our lives would get easier, and that trials would be minimized. He did what he did and he does what he does “so that . . . he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” That is, we are grace receivers. God is doing what he is doing–and thus orchestrating our days with all their troubles and trials, challenges and disappointments–so that he can be on the receiving end of his endless kindness and grace.

And that’s when I think . . .

Hhhhmmm . . . when others are treating me well, affirming my “goodness,” when life keeps falling out for me in pleasant ways, when the sailing is smooth and the breeze only refreshing and cool, then I don’t taste or feel or experience my inherent need for God’s kindness in grace. Although I am being sustained by his grace and I am living by his grace and I enjoy life by his grace, when life is sweet and good and easy, it can be easy to overlook grace!

But overlooking grace is not what God is up to in our lives. It might just be in those moments where I feeling life is “not fair” and that others are taking advantage of me or not appreciating me, when life is not going the way I planned or anticipated, that I can best taste and experience God’s kindness in grace . . . as he sustains and encourages and upholds and enriches and calms and leads and comforts.


One Comment

  1. Thanks so much for reminding me of “the main thing”! As a service engineer I spend most of my time troubleshooting and repairing electronic problems . . . for people. So I am really wired to be a people-pleaser. I get all freaked out when in the normal course of life I run into situations where someone isn’t happy with what I have done. So thanks so much for the reminder that I need to be a God-pleaser first and foremost. Love God, love my neighbor, love myself. In that order!

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