Several years ago after a minor surgical procedure, I had one of those horrible, no-good, very bad nights born of pain and an unexpected infection. In the middle of it all, I realized, I need God for more than just relief from physical pain. I need His grace, His unforced rhythms of grace. This minor bout with difficulty reminded me of all the people who endure pain every day because of an injury or accident. Modern medicine and prayer can help with management of chronic physical pain.
Management of chronic emotional pain, though, is not so easy. Failed marriages and relationships, abuse, anger, neglect, hurts all tug at unseen areas of our soul.
During that horrible night, I prayed constantly, “God make me warm. Then, God make me cold.” My body couldn’t make up its mind. We are like that with our emotions, too. “God, I don’t want that person in my life. God, make that person love me.” We think we know in the moment what would be best for us, but really we don’t.
God does, though, if we just give it to Him. That night I said, “God, You know what I need. I trust You. Your grace is sufficient for me, but could You please, just help me sleep?”
It’s easier, sometimes, to give our physical problems to God than our emotional needs. It’s easy to numb our pain with things that bring an immediate gratification. I know I’ve been there. In the midst of emotional pain, my drug of choice wasn’t alcohol, pills, pornography or money.
My pain-numbing addiction was much more “Christian.” It was sugar and bread; food, plain and simple. Addiction, in my book, is anything I go to in place of God. Sugar is very addictive to me. Am I sad? Eat something sweet. Happy? Eat. Angry? Eat. Need a reward for a job well done? Eat. Want to celebrate a wedding, a birthday, Christmas, any holiday, any church gathering, eat as much and as many sweets as I can stand. Now, doesn’t that feel better?
Funny thing, it does … for awhile and then, like any other false god, I need another fix. It is not the real comfort, power, presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit. It fills my body, but not my soul and spirit.
Then, I look at myself and ask, “God what have I done to deserve this mountain of flesh? Can you help me?” My loving heavenly Father, who never forces Himself on me, is there with answers. Many, I already knew. I just ignored the truth because I didn’t want to give up my comfy blanket. It’s the favorite one that always numbs whatever I am feeling. It anesthetizes what I am not able to cope with myself and am too proud to go to God with.
“I can handle this anger,” I say as I whip up another batch of oatmeal cookies and proceed to eat the entire batch. A bit excessive? Yes. God tells me simply in His word: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”1 Yet, I am mastered by sugar. I can’t get enough sugar. It calls to me from the pits of my soul and I am sad that I can’t seem to say no.
“Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will destroy them both,”2 the next verse says. What remains is not the body. It will be the soul and the spirit that right now is being molded as I learn to go to God for every emotional and spiritual need.
It’s amazing that His grace is the reason I many times turn my back on the still, small voice that tells me to stop eating or redirects me. I ignore it because His grace covers all my sins. So, I eat all I want. I have grace for that.
The purpose of grace, though, is not to allow me to do what I know is sin, but to lead me to walking with the Holy Spirit. Grace understands and gently woos me back to my Savior.
“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.”3
These verses made way too much sense when the doctor told me I would be dead in five years, if I didn’t lose at least 100 pounds. I had created death. I did it bite by bite, sweet morsel by sweet morsel.
It Made Me Mad
I knew the answer. It was right there. I needed to be led by the Spirit of God. It made me mad, though. I railed against it. “Why can’t I eat candy and cinnamon rolls? Everyone else can do it. Why can’t I?”
I knew I was sounding very much akin the pre-teen complaining to her mother about why she couldn’t go to an “R” rated movie. “Everyone else is doing it. Why can’t I?”
God in His infinite wisdom somehow saw fit to allow my human weakness to be food. Perhaps, it was just to remind me that I am human. In that vulnerable place where I can’t handle things on my own, I need Him so desperately. Instead of Him, I turn to the fix readily available to instantly fills me so I feel no more. Time after time, it leads to death.
God has a different plan. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show You how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”4
That is what I want. I want to live freely and lightly. I need the unforced rhythms of grace as I allow God to take over every part of my life. Nothing held back. Nothing I think I can or will do on my own.
On that night a few years ago, my body was still cold, but my spirit became warm. I realized I was being held by an almighty God. His words were comforted me. “I love you. I will take care of you. Every day I am pouring out My grace, My unmerited favor on you. You can’t earn it. You can just accept it.” Then, I slept.
It just reminds me, as a recovering sugarholic, I need His unforced rhythms of grace every single day of my life. Not because I deserve it, but because I cannot live a day without it. Then, I rest in Him. And it is a wonderful, not-bad, very good day.
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11 Cor. 6:12 NASB
21 Cor. 6:13 NASB
3Romans 8:13-14, NIV
4Matthew 11:28-30 MSG