We all need it. We all want it. But after encountering the following quote by K. J. Ramsey in This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers by, I knew that we all need to foster sustaining grace as well. Read this and you’ll see what I mean:
When the church amplifies stories of healing and overcoming without also elevating stories of sustaining grace, she is not adequately forming souls to hold on to hope. If the majority of stories we hear are tales of triumph, we will question the worth of our stories when healing doesn’t come. God, in his wisdom, in his hidden purpose, allows some of our suffering to linger, and the church unintentionally turns hearts away from the heart of God when she does not hold space for the sacred mystery that weakness reveals God’s strength.
This got me thinking of how the stories we tell and the spaces we create forms us. Of course, I love to hear about hundreds—even thousands—of people coming to faith or how God performed a medical miracle on the field. You do too. We serve an amazing God who does amazing things in and for His children. Those stories are to be told and re-told. But as Ramsey wrote, we can unintentionally fall into the trap of elevating these kinds of stories over the stories of sustaining grace. The stories of God sustaining us even when . . . even when the visa didn’t come through, even when the diagnosis wasn’t what you wanted, even when your teammate relationship was disappointing, or even when the work you’re involved in is more akin to pushing a bolder up a hill.
In this five-day challenge we are going to foster sustaining grace in a variety of situations we often encounter on the field.
We will look for those parts of our lives where we’re disappointed or confused, and where our questions to God seem unanswered or we haven’t experienced healing or release. It’s also likely that in this broken world how we have been treated is simply wrong. Some areas may be easy to name, some may not be. But in naming them, we take steps toward a deeper place of dwelling with God in both the highs and lows of life.
After we name the area, in this challenge you will then look for the ways that God has and is sustaining us.
Every day you will be given an area of life to explore and asked three questions:
1. Where do I need sustaining grace in this area?
2. What do I wish would happen in this situation?
3. How am I experiencing sustaining grace in this situation?
God sustains in many ways. Here is a short list of the ways He might sustain you:
- Friends/family members/strangers
- Physical touch or presence
- By remembering past experiences
- Through stories
- Hobbies or interests
- Other ways
As I created this challenge and thought through how God has sustained me in situations that were not passing as quickly as I wanted (or in some cases, just will not change), I can see how He has used each item of the above list at different times. I also find it helpful to hear and remember words from others who are also, at times, stumbling and reaching and longing to be sustained in situations. With this in mind, I pulled out a notebook where I have noted meaningful passages from books I’ve read over the years. These “old friends” of mine will journey with us over these next five days as well, because in my case, words have been the most constant way God sustains me.
I share as a fellow sojourner. In your case, what may be a common way God sustains you may be music, food, or nature. Each day you will spend ten to thirty minutes looking for ways that God is sustaining you. My hope and prayer in this challenge is three-fold. First, that you will honor the harder parts of your life that seem less victorious, but are still every bit as valid as the parts that may appear to be more of a victory. Second, that you will experience an expanded capacity to gracefully live with these harder parts of life. And finally, that you will be reminded of ways that you may have forgotten or overlooked where God has and is sustaining you in these areas.
 K. J. Ramsey, This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2020), 184–185.
P.S. No blog posts this week during the challenge.