“I don’t like that. It makes me feel bad.” -Out of the mouth of babes.
If our job is to magnify the Lord to the world, God must have decided to use our children to magnify our own sins so we can see them. My children hate correction. They take it as a personal insult. No matter how gently, or grace-filled I correct, padding it on either side with nice things, they receive it like a punch from a bully. Just once, I’d love to hear my children say, “Mom, I didn’t realize I was doing that. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll fix that right away.”
Nonetheless, My children are me…magnified.
Then I think of God, and how gently he corrects me. In his grace he corrects. He could leave me to destroy myself and he doesn’t. Every correction God has ever given me is an act of his grace, not his condemnation. He could have left me, but he didn’t. He continues to sanctify me, and I… I’m often offended. Doesn’t he see I had good reason to sin? Doesn’t he see the stress I’m under? Doesn’t he see that other person who is sinning way more than me?
I have always run from bad feelings. Good Christians are happy people, right? Grief, anger, and the weight of our sin are feelings that aren’t so pleasant, and get murky. Grief in any form has taught me that you can’t outrun feelings, and they have their place in the Christian life.
Walking through miscarriage, or the death of a beloved family member, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to sit in grief, and let it wash over you. Grief changes you, in a very painful way. Grief isn’t something you do, it’s usually something that happens to you. God is not in a rush to make us happy all the time. As he works in us, his goal isn’t continuous happiness, it’s eternal joy found in him.
In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about godly grief vs. worldly grief. In a previous letter, to Corinth, Paul had come down hard on the church. They were twisting up the message of grace, and he could not allow that to happen. “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—although I did regret it, for I see that the letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief so that you suffered no loss through us.” (V. 8-9)
No one likes to be called out. Correction hurts. That pain can go two different directions: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (V. 10)
I sit in astonishment that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” When we understand the depth of our sin, it hurts. It should. But God uses that law to bring our hearts to repentance, which leads to salvation through him, and we are left without regret. We are left without grief. We don’t even need to turn back.
This idea of unquestioning, unlimited grace found in the cross, it is said by legalists to be “cheap grace.” Cheap grace is simply the gospel without the law. Cheap grace sounds foreign to those who have deeply grieved.
“I’m not pointing out what you did was wrong because I hate you. I am pointing out what you did was wrong so you can understand the depths of how much I love you. What you did won’t shake my love, and I love you too much to let you keep doing it.” It’s a phrase my kids often hear from me, and I pray will one day understand.
Don’t run from the grieving. Don’t protect your children from the grieving. When we understand the depth of our depravity, it is impossible to stay there long. Not when grief is used in the skilled hands of the Holy Spirit who uses it as a tool to turn our hearts to repentance.
When we teach the gospel without the law, it becomes cheap, and meaningless.
When we preach the law without the gospel, it leads to a worldly grief that produces death. It seems some days that worldly grief that leads to death is all around us, and I see friends dropping like flies. When we are giving the law without the gospel…it might as well be murder.
In literary terms, what God is doing is called a “Foil.” A foil is when the author shows the darkness next to the light, because when the darkness or evil is next to the light it darkness is fully understood. Also, the quality of the lightness, or goodness is fully shown when placed next to the darkness/evil. In books, the redemption cannot be seen or appreciated without a full understanding of the danger.
Do not be afraid of seeing the depths of your depravity. Do not be offended, because the story doesn’t end there, and it’s completion is glorious.
“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”