Monday, January 23, 2012

Is God's grace really sufficient?

I was 20 years old, coming out of anesthesia from a liver biopsy and trying to comprehend what the letters PSC meant. I later understood it to mean Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, the rare liver disease that Walter Payton suffered from. At the time however I had just gotten done studying meat grading in my animal products class at Michigan State University. PSE (pale soft exudative) is a type of grade for meat. So my gastroenterologist was trying to tell me I have a rare, serious, incurable disease and all I wanted to talk about was meat grading.

So began a long process of coming to grips with this disease in my life. I learned that best case scenario was I would never need a liver transplant and we might just "manage it". Worst case scenario was things would go down hill within a couple years.  The likely scenario was that I would need a transplant in 10-15 years. And oh yeah, there's this very small but serious chance that an undetectable cancer could develop... so the longer you wait the greater the risk, but that's very rare. 

I have a morning routine of studying and praying that I've stuck with off and on since about the time I was diagnosed. I have a prayer list of things that I talk to God about. One item on my list since 2006 has been my health. Of course I ask God to take this cup away from me and heal me, but if He chooses not to, then I have asked every day for the Grace to deal with it in a way that honors Him. That my reaction and character no matter my circumstances would point to him. 

Grace is a funny thing. I think it has two meanings. First straight out of Sunday school, would be "God's unmerited favor". Which is true, just cliche. As Eph. 2:8-9 explains, grace is that process by which we are saved:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. NIV
 Or as Romans 3:23-24 explains;
 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. NIV
It is because of this understanding of grace that I'm able to come to the second meaning of grace. By entering into this relationship through the grace of God, I'm able to access His provision to act and behave in a Godly manner. Or as Barnes puts it, "the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit" which allow us to act in a way unnatural to how we would on our own.
2 Cor 9:8-9
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. NIV
Eph 4:7-8
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. NIV
2 Cor 12:9
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. NIV
Fast forward to April and my diagnosis. Since then I've had many many people ask how I'm able to respond the way I have. One quick but truthful answer is this isn't how I'd respond either. I really feel like God has allowed and protected me to have this response. It's not out of Ryan's strength.

The second answer is I've been praying for 5 years for if and when this day comes that I would have the grace to respond in a way that honors God. Every prayer has ended with, "not my will but yours be done" however I know beyond a doubt that whatever God allows or ordains into my life I will have the resources, the grace, to respond in a way that honors Him. I still have to choose to accept that grace, and humble myself to trusting God in my circumstances. This prayer is not a new one to me. Even though I've only been diagnosed for a couple months, I've been preparing for this for years, and God has been preparing me as well.

I don't know what you're going through. I do know many of my friends and family have crushing circumstances around them; more cancer, job loss, loss of family members, sickness, uncertainty, family turmoil, and more. Maybe life is good for you right now. I can promise you it won't stay that way. Not to scare you, but we all know it's how life works.

When you face that hurdle now or in the future, would you rather do just starting to pray God give me the grace, or would you rather know that prayer intimately and down to the very fiber of your core. Would you rather just start learning what it means, or have prayed it so many times that you've prayed it through tears, through happiness, through sickness, through health, through anger, and through joy?

Start praying for grace today, it'll change your life.


Jenni said...

I read this,, right after I read your post. God is so clever in how He speaks to us. Praying for you guys.

Kim said...

Thank you, Ryan you shared so eloquently the sufficiency and timing of God's grace in our lives. It's all Him and always right in time. I will be praying for your days this week as you continue to walk this path in His power.

Anonymous said...


Jeremy said...

Great post man! Praying that tomorrow is another step forward in beating this thing.

Valentin Anderson said...

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Great post! I'll be praying for you guys!

Allyn Wilk said...

Thank you so much. I needed to read this. You're such a wonderful, inspiring woman. Keep it up. God's got your back. <3