Resting and Wrestling
Living with Grace in the Tension Between
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” I Peter 5:10 ESV
I do not enjoy suffering. I do not even like to think about the possibility of suffering. Whether the pain affects me or someone I love, it does not feel like a kindness to undergo hardship. But after reading I Peter 5:10, we know all those in Christ will suffer for a little while. Trials are a part of the reality of living in this place between our intended perfection and our promised eternal glory. The price for man’s sin took us from walking with God in complete freedom to being placed in bondage to the very things we thought would free us. Our sin created this paradox we find ourselves in between a place of rest and wrestling. The miraculous word that allows what was broken with God to be completely restored and renewed is grace. There is no solution we, as created beings, can offer to repair our sin-wrecked fellowship with God. An end to suffering is only possible through trusting in the “God of all grace”. Grace illuminates the character of God and reveals who we are and will become. This is the unmerited kindness of God.
This is defining grace.
Most of my life I have thought of the word grace as an abstract concept with little practical application. My family said “grace” before we ate, talked about being gracious to other people, and believed we were saved by grace through faith in Christ. Yet grace encompasses more than the parameters these phrases and actions imply. As I studied the meaning of the word grace, I saw there are many different uses throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the New Testament, the Greek word for grace is charis. But this little word can hold different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. I realized part of my confusion came from misapplying the differing definitions of grace equally to all passages, and I needed to study to sort it out.
Grace can be used to mean gratitude or thanks for the benefits we receive from God as in 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” This is the reason we refer to praying before a meal as “saying grace”. We are acknowledging and giving thanks for God’s provision. But this thankfulness stems from the ultimate grace given to us through Christ’s work of redemption through His death, burial, and resurrection. His grace is powerful. It should evoke awe in us that leads to true repentance and gratefulness for all He has done to rescue us.
Grace can refer to favor shown from one person to another. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). We can offer greetings for increased grace to believers and ask God to bless them in tangible ways (I Corinthians 1:3). Without God’s kind forgiveness, we would not be able to approach Him to ask for such kindness. Growing into a person of grace that has favor with God and man is reliant on God’s grace being received and practically applied in our own lives.
In terms of character, grace can mean a person that is poised, charming, sweet, and a pleasure to be around. To possess these gracious qualities is to reflect who God is. He exudes love, provides joy, and gives delight to those who serve Him. “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22a).
Charis can also be used to describe a physical blessing or spiritual gift. 2 Peter 3:18 encourages us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. In this context, we are maturing in our spiritual life. We can increase in our knowledge and understanding of God through wrestling to know Him as we study His word, pray, and practice quiet listening. Truth is grace. All these things overflow from the overarching definition of grace: “His uncoerced initiative and pervasive, extravagant demonstrations of care and favor.”(5)
This merciful working in our lives helps us to reconcile the tension we live in between resting in and wrestling toward Christ’s image. (continued…)