Never Beyond the Need For Grace

Originally published Tuesday, 11 March 2014.

I've been sick these past few weeks and for a while, I wondered if I'd never get better. I'm pretty sure we've met our deductible from all the doctor's visits and prescriptions they've given me. (It's never a good sign when you arrive at the pharmacist's to pick up your medication and they pause and hesitate with a sad smile before giving you the total cost!). The other evening, as we headed out on a family outing, my cough worsened. It wouldn't stop. The pressure on my chest was heavy. As I labored to breathe, I said to my husband, "I think I need my inhaler, but it's at home."

It's been nearly a year since I've had any trouble with my asthma. Being sick for so many weeks must have triggered it. I had gotten used to not needing to bring an inhaler everywhere I go. I had grown confident and part of me thought, maybe, just maybe I was cured. Maybe I simply wouldn't need it ever again.

You'd think I would have learned by now. A person with asthma should never take their breath for granted. But I did.

And the truth is, I take a lot for granted. I rely on myself and take confidence in my routines and the comfortable pace of my life. I make my plans and expect they will come to pass. I move through my day, checking off my lists and assume the next minute will be there when I arrive.

Too often, just as I thought I had moved beyond my need for an inhaler, I live my life as though I've outgrown my need for grace.

But the truth is, all is grace. It is by grace that I have life, that I breathe, and that I have a pillow to lie my head on at night. It is by God's grace that I wake up each morning and that I make it through the day. It is his grace that sustains me. Every moment, every breath, every word spoken, every morsel eaten, every hug received--all grace.

"He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else." Acts 17:25

Not being able to breathe is a humbling reminder that I am not dependent on myself. It is God who determines my steps, who provides my daily bread, and who knows how many breaths I have left in me. I can never outgrow or go beyond my need for his sustaining grace. Even when I take it for granted or think I am walking in my own strength, he still gives me grace. He does not treat me as my sins deserve and like the Father in Luke 15, he waits with open arms for my wayward heart to return home.

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." John 1:16

Sadly, when I live as though I've moved beyond grace, I am mocking the sacrifice of Christ. When I rest in my own abilities and my own strength, I am saying that what Jesus did at the cross wasn't good enough. When I go through my days, trusting in my own efforts to make life work rather than the perfect righteousness of Christ on my behalf, I am living as though my striving is better than the holiness of my Savior. When I live anxiously, trying to anticipate and be prepared for future calamity, I am saying that there isn't enough grace, that God's stores will run out and that I need to be prepared to survive on my own.

"I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die." Galatians 2:21 (NLT)

My husband is now on alert to make sure I never leave home without my inhaler. When it comes to grace, it's something I can never live without either. Just like the air I breathe, I can't survive without God's abundant grace for me through Christ. I don't want to treat it as meaningless and I don't want to take it for granted.

Because all is grace. From our very life, to our daily bread; from our possessions to the number of days we live; from our salvation to our sanctification--all is grace. As long as we live, we'll never grow beyond our need for it and God will never stop showering us with the riches of his grace.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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 coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:4-7