“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, Lord, and I follow your commands.” –Psalm 119:165-166
As I continue to study the topic of grace in my weekly Bible study group, I’ve been presented with many examples of people trying to find the grace to forgive the big stuff—the seemingly unforgivable, usually one-time, wrongs. At the same time, I’m trying to figure out how to come up with the grace to forgive little irritants—recurring annoyances that I must encounter again and again. Sometimes we are bound to people or circumstances that cause us much stress. How do we respond with grace?
My husband’s and my current irritant is an oppressive property manager. Before signing our lease, we read it carefully and asked many questions about everything that concerned us. Once we were sure we understood what we were getting into, we signed. This was about two weeks before we actually moved in. When we arrived in town and went to pick up our keys, however, the property manager presented us with one more paper to sign. This paper had all the deal breakers on it. Had he been up front with us, we never would have signed the lease. Yet our choice at that point, he made clear, was to sign and proceed on his terms or refuse to sign, forfeit our security deposit, six weeks rent, and non-refundable pet fee, and find ourselves without a home.
We signed under duress.
Most of the time it is okay. We love the house. But once or twice a month we have to deal with property-manager-related irritations. If he would leave us alone, we’d happily live here for three or four years and prove to be among the best tenants ever. As it is, once our lease is up, he’ll probably be looking for someone else to live in this house. Those last minute additions to our lease are just. that. annoying.
When I think of this situation, I pray for grace. Lots of grace! Here is what God is helping me to understand:
Irritants like our property manager are like the grains of sand that get into an oyster’s shell. The sand irritates the delicate oyster, but there’s nothing the oyster can do to get the sand out of the shell. Instead, the oyster produces some kind of secretion to coat the sand and ease the pain. Every time the sand irritates, the oyster adds another layer until a pearl is formed. Naturally, the greater irritations produce the largest pearls.
This is grace. When I feel irritation building up inside of me, I ask God to help me wrap it in grace. The grace doesn’t come from inside of me, though. I must go to God for what I need. He calms me down and comforts me. A pearl is born. If the irritation won’t go away, I must go to God again and again. The pearl grows every time I do. It occurs to me that this process works, over time, whether I’m dealing with a recurring, little irritation or trying to forgive a huge, unforgivable-in-my-own-strength sin. In either case, when I feel pain, I go to God and ask for more of His grace.
I saw this in action this morning as I read through Psalm 119. I’ve always seen this Psalm as a tribute to God’s Wisdom, praise for His Word—for His Law. This morning, though, I noticed there are actually two recurrent, almost parallel, themes. Along with expressing his devotion to God’s Law, the psalmist is pleading for salvation, deliverance, and freedom from oppression. This man was dealing with a serious irritant. Yet he responded by declaring his devotion to God, his loyalty to God’s law, his love for God’s Word as he asked for relief.
We can do this, too. No earthly oppressor has any kind of ultimate authority over us. We are members of God’s Kingdom. In His perfect timing, He will fight for us. He will set us free. When we look at any annoying, aggravating, or troubling situation from that perspective, the irritant seems to shrink. In fact, we can almost laugh at some; our God is just. that. BIG!
Paul wrote about this when he told the Corinthians about his thorn. We don’t know what this thorn was, but it irritated Paul. Three times, he asked God to take it away, but God refused. His reply to Paul was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is a challenging passage, but I think I’m starting to get it now. God’s grace is the stuff we ask for when we need comfort from the pain of life’s thorns. As the grace builds up, beautiful pearls are born and grow for the glory of God’s name.
In a future post, I’ll write a little more about how these pearls bring glory to God’s name. In the meantime, I’m still calling on God for grace in irritating situations.
- What are you asking God to take away or free you from?
- How can you remind yourself to go to God for grace when something irritates?
- How has He comforted you in troubling circumstances that you have no immediate power to change?
Father, thorns are ugly and painful, yet sometimes we choose to endure the pain and complain. Please remind us that You have all the grace we need for any situation. We only have to come to you. Please comfort us until You choose to set us free. Create a beautiful pearl in our lives for all the world to see. Thank You, Lord, for grace. Amen.