March ’21: The Remarkable Extension of Grace
By Emma Li
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
—2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Almost a year ago, I was in L.A and was told I’d be sent home early because of COVID-19, unable to go on with my Discipleship School at YWAM. I remember stomping to the prayer chapel and unleashing my flurry of irrational anger towards God. However, as I was doing so, an interesting transformation took place. The more I narrated the inward, self-centered frustrations I was experiencing, the more I began to notice ways I was weak, frail, and had a heart that was so deceitful and selfish. I noticed that the posture of my prayer took a turn for the best: I was no longer praying out of spite with fingers pointing at the self, but praying out of pure weakness and powerlessness, pointing upwards to the heavens. Reader, let me convince you that the second posture was much more comfortable than the first, because I was no longer afraid of where I was weak, but assured in how He was strong.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul states that weakness is necessary for us to submit and let “Christ’s power” rest on us. It contrasts, like black paint against a white canvas: you cannot deny the way they supplement each other for the better. To “boast in weakness” is to be fully aware and okay with the fact that there is someone greater to carry our burden on our behalf.
Indeed, grace is an act that refutes our worldly understandings of natural human tendencies. We are creatures who wish to be in control. We appreciate mutuality in relationships. We are often skeptical of other people’s motives towards us, especially when it is particularly charitable and unnecessary. It is precisely these aspects that make it so utterly difficult for human beings to understand the unearned and undeserved grace that God has freely poured out onto us.
Grace seeks us out even when we have nothing to offer in return. C.S Lewis once described it in Mere Christianity, saying, “In a sense, the whole Christian life consists in accepting that very remarkable offer. But the difficulty is to reach the point of recognising that all we have done and can do is nothing.”
Denying God’s grace is like a man denying the Sun. He can reject such an idea as long as he wants, but it will not change the fact that it is, indeed, there. Likewise, the man can continue to disbelieve the Sun, but he will not be able to justify why he has grown tan over the summer, or why his garden has been able to thrive and grow. All around him, there is overwhelming evidence of how he has been immediately impacted by the Sun.
There is a fine balance necessary when we pray with the concept of grace at the forefront: yes, we are utterly and completely powerless, and our weaknesses will not recover overnight. But we can be fueled on a strength greater than every human effort combined. We can partake in the transfer of power, from our own frail and sinful selves, to the gracious, loving, almighty God. It requires humility, and above all it requires a trust built on love. It cannot be a passive faith of receiving, but a proactive one that C.S Lewis puts simply: “…the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can’t.’”
This is salvation. If you are ashamed of your past, or you completely loathe the future, understand that there is nothing we have done to make God love us less and there is nothing we can ever strive to do to make God love more than He already does. Therefore, grace is an absolute, irrefutable promise we are given. Grace by no means comments on who we are as humans, except that we are extremely stubborn and flawed! But it reflects a decision imparted only by the Giver. Grace is something that only expands our perceptions of the One who first loves.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:4-5 that “…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
When I came to understand that grace is not something I choose, rather it is something that has chosen me, I learned to embrace it wholeheartedly. And perhaps this is the most beautiful aspect to grace: our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties are subject to change. They will look different as we go forward in our uncertain lives. But we are assured that “His grace is sufficient” for every aspect of our brokenness, no matter the contexts. Like a blanket, His grace covers us…the Cross covers us. In prayer, I encourage you to give in to this posture of receiving His grace by recognizing imperfection and weakness, but one that actively and profusely submits for His perfect will to take its course in your life.