I’m usually a very fast reader. I typically will finish a book in a day or two, even with all the duties of wife, mom, Sunday school teacher, and coach. However, I’m just now coming to the end of a book that I’ve been reading for a couple of months. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges is a wonderful book. It is not difficult to read. It isn’t boring. But this book is so full of Godly wisdom, that I have to take it in bites and ponder those over time! This time, the bite may take days. Maybe even weeks.
In this chapter, titled Appropriating God’s Grace, there is a portion that springs from Peter’s first epistle.
and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:5b-7
His main point is that we must be humble to receive grace (verse 5). He goes on to talk about how we become humble. And this is where I’m a bit hung up. Verse 6 says that we are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Bridges (and most commentators) say that the “mighty hand” mentioned here is God’s discipline of us. As Bridges points out, the author of Hebrews tells us to endure for the sake of discipline (Hebrews 12:7). Endure what? Whatever circumstances God is using to discipline us — hardship.
Discipline, of course, does not just mean punishment. I discipline my children for bad behavior, but I also discipline them to behave rightly. There are various ways that I have for training proper behavior that are not punishment, but still fall in the category of discipline. Many Christians consider certain acts (prayer, Bible study, memorization, church attendance, etc.) to be spiritual disciplines. They are tools for training us in Godly behavior. So there are many times that God will discipline us to train us in holiness, not as a punitive act. He has different ways of doing that and one of them is our circumstances.
As Bridges states, “But it is not enough to see God’s mighty hand behind the immediate causes of all our adversities, nor to see it as the hand of a loving Father disciplining His children… The rub comes in submitting to it.”
This is where I’m stuck. Yes, I want to grow in grace! Yes, I want to be more holy! But I’m not so sure that I’m ready to submit to any circumstance that He brings along!!! I think of the hardships that many believers have gone through in order to be refined (and therefore bring Him great honor and glory) and I’m not willing to say that I’ll submit to that. I like my easy life! I like having a nice home, working cars, plenty of food, a husband that loves me, children that like to “praise up the Lord” (a quote from Ryan), and so much more! I like the abilities of dancing, walking singing, and more. I can’t say that I really want some hard circumstance in my life.
But I do want Him. I want to give Him great pleasure in the way this life is lived. I want to draw attention to Him. I want to walk in a manner worthy of His calling (Col. 1:10.) I want to do the works that He prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10)
And so now I cry out to Him with all my heart for His grace to enable me to submit to whatever He has for me. And I’m clinging (with a death grip) to the promises at the end of the 1 Peter passage –the promise that He will exalt me at the proper time (eternity, I suspect!) and the promise that He cares for me. Mostly, I’m holding onto that last one. He cares for me. He cares enough not to bring me harm in His refining fire, but to bring me through it so I will be purer. More like Him. A better reflection of His radiant glory.