Undeserved Grace

“I NEVER get the respect I deserve!”

“I just deserve a break once in a while!”

“I did nothing to deserve this hurtful treatment!”

These are all things we say to ourselves. And quite honestly, after the rough past few years, my mind thought about these things daily: “I don’t deserve this! I deserve better! I’ve done my best!”

Again and again, hurtful words said to me and actions done against me, replayed in my mind. And oh! The scenarios I made up in my thoughts about how I could change things, how I could defend myself, how I could make myself look better…even how I could make others look bad!

But you know what this type of thinking brought me? No peace at all. 

None.

I was tormented by my thoughts, by self pity, and as hard as I tried I could not, COULD NOT, see any chance of break through for the future. I felt hopeless. I felt like I needed justice and I needed to be set free by the person who had wronged me. And I knew that aside from a miracle, that would never happen.

Finally, I cried out to God one day saying: “God! You know I’ve been treated unfairly, you know I’ve been wronged…but it’s no longer that person who’s torturing me day after day…It’s my own THOUGHTS! How can I change?!? I’ve tried so hard! How can I be set free? I sat with my bible open and scanned the pages waiting, hoping for something to stand out, for something to give me peace…but the minutes ticked by and nothing happened. There I sat, alone in my room. The silence was deafening, the loneliness was painful. God seemed to be far away.

The next day again, I pleaded: “God! I’m just numbing my pain day after day! I sit on my phone and play games. I browse aimlessly on social media, waiting, hoping, YEARNING to fill the empty void that was once filled! Where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” And nothing. Just the sound of the clock on my wall counting the seconds away. Oh, once in a while I’d get a verse that spoke of God’s love for me or of his faithfulness to us, and I’d feel hope. Once in a while I’d read the book of Job or the story of Joseph and be comforted that God was working in my pain. But most of the time, I just felt like I was on a constant waiting list. Just holding on to hope that “joy would come in the morning”. When would morning come, God?

Then one night I had a dream, a sad dream. I dreamed that my sister, who loves me dearly, came over and was watching me. I’d do I bit of work, then sit back, drink wine, and play games on my phone. She looked at me, full of compassion, and said, “Heather, this isn’t you. I know that you’ve been beaten down, but this isn’t you.  Please, choose your next steps carefully because the road you’re on is a very dark path.” I woke up and felt deeply convicted. For this was the very thing I had been doing for the past while. Immediately, in the middle of the night, I deleted the games, social media and any distractions on my phone. That was the first thing.

This freed up much of my wasted time, but still, my thought’s drifted more then ever to what had happened to me. And I still felt discouraged reading God’s word. But I didn’t give up. Day after day, morning after morning I pushed through the pain and I opened the bible that had once given me so much joy.

Then one day there it was, a verse that I had read many many times, but never really seen:

“Therefore since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2 NLT

Undeserved privilege. Completely, utterly undeserved.

And I broke down weeping, because no, I didn’t “deserve” the pain of this last year.

What I really deserve is hell itself. That’s what I deserve. That’s what my sins deserve. But losing sight of this undeserved grace had led me to where I believed I actually deserved better.

I am completely undeserving, but able to stand confidently and joyfully before God, sharing in his glory!

My heart wasn’t able to find joy because I was focusing on all the things I deserved, but didn’t get. Now joy flooded my soul because I saw all the things God has given me that I HAVEN’T deserved. And the list is very long!

I have been saved from a meaningless life because of HIS sacrifice. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally and forgives me again and again and again, I have five beautiful HEALTHY children, I have many loving and caring friends and family who pray for me, I have an amazing church, I live in a free country that I never had to fight for, I have food on my table every single day. I have hope of one day going to heaven to meet God and you know what? I don’t deserve any of it. 

It’s SO hard to change this way of thinking. It really is. But, man, the joy is worth it. Living from a heart of thankfulness, instead of a heart full of pain is worth meditating on these things and taking every thought captive.

Friends, it’s worth seeking him through the hard times, because in the ups and downs of life there is only One that has never changed. He’s there every morning when I rise, and every night as I drift to sleep, even when I can not feel him. And I lived long enough to know from experience that while there are many things that can numb the pain, there is only one that can heal it: Jesus.

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8 NLT

The Power of Praying Scripture

Most of us would agree that prayer is one of the most important things in our Christian walk. Our walk with God is a relationship, and relationships are only built through communication. You can not have a relationship without communication and prayer is communication with God! Therefore, one can not have a relationship with God if they don’t pray because it’s the very core of our connection to God!

Yet many people seem to hit a brick wall in their prayer life. They try to pray but after a while their prayers all end up sounding the same. And we begin to wonder, what’s the point? Are my prayers doing anything at all?? There are seasons in my life where my prayers seem alive and vibrant! They just seem to flow naturally. But it isn’t always that way.

A few weeks ago, I was at a loss on how to pray for certain people in my life. I had been told that praying for my “enemies” was the only way to actually love and forgive them. But there was a problem…I wasn’t sure on how to pray for my enemies. To just pray “God, help so and so to have a good day” didn’t seem beneficial at all! I mean really, do I expect God to give everyone in my life a good day just because I prayed that for them each morning? These prayers soon became so habitual that they seemed meaningless, like a ritual or a superstition. And I didn’t want this for my prayer life. I didn’t want to just babble some meaningless words out of habit! I wanted to PRAY! I wanted my prayers to make a difference in the lives around me! I wanted my prayers to transform and change my heart!!

One day, as I was stumbling over my prayers for someone who I was having a hard time forgiving…I was praying “God, please help them to see what they’ve done. Help them to see that I am also your child…” and suddenly I just stopped! What if I was wrong about them! What if they had done nothing wrong and I had done something wrong? What if…So I started praying the “other” side…”God if I’m in the wrong help me to see what I’ve done…help me to see that they’ve been obedient…” I stumbled over these prayers and something just didn’t seem to flow. This sounded so stupid! I was so unsure of anything I couldn’t even pray! Was I just praying from all angles just to “cover” my bases? Was there any power to these prayers?

Finally out of frustration, I just said out loud: “God! I don’t know how to pray for this situation! I don’t know what’s right and wrong! I don’t know what’s going on in their hearts! How can I pray for them? Teach me how to pray!!”

And you know where God led me? To Psalm 23. And I felt as if he was asking me to pray this Psalm over them:

 “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” 

There is nothing more healing than praying these over your enemies. The first time I prayed these words for them I broke down and wept because I realized how much God LOVES them and how he truly wants the best for each one of us. “God, be their shepherd… lead them beside quiet waters…restore their soul. Guide them along right paths for your name sake…be with them through the dark times and comfort them…”

I prayed these verses everyday and I began to see that God isn’t taking sides! He loves ALL people, and he wants the best for ALL of us. He’s not concerned about who’s right and who’s wrong. He doesn’t see things the way we do and he doesn’t work the way we expect him to.

Blessing your enemies day after day changes you. It wasn’t long before I realized that I actually meant what I was praying!  “God, let your goodness and love follow them ALL the days of their lives! May they dwell in your house FOREVER!!!” I meant these words with all my heart…for my enemies!! I was praying God’s will for their lives and the power of God’s words were transforming mine.

For my children my prayers were different because I had specific things I wanted to see in their lives…”God help Isaiah with his test today, help Bella to be kind to her brothers, help Jonas to control his anger, help Dallas to obey the first time, help Emerson to have a good attitude…” These were the types of prayers I’d pray, and I don’t think they were wrong! But after the transformation with my other prayers, I wanted more for my children! I don’t just want them to succeed and be “good” people, I want them to be godly men and women of faith! Once again I asked God to show me a scripture to pray over my children and I started praying Psalm 63:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Finally, I had the words to pray my actual desires for my children! And I KNEW these prayers were in his will for them, because they’re in God’s word!

For “my” three churches (Blumenort EMC, HOPE church, Southland) that I’ve attended and loved in the past 29 years of my life:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousnessthat comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Do you feel unsure of what to pray? Are you in a situation where you don’t know how to pray? Do you feel like you’re just praying the same prayers over and over again? Ask God to show you a verse or passage of scripture to pray over the people in your life. I promise you that if you persist in it, you will see your prayer life transformed!