I don’t want to think about the flood of emotions that will bombard me on his birthday. I don’t want to envision Kaleigh (10) and Kyra’s (6) weddings and try to imagine the glaring absence of Kaleb’s presence. Those things – Lord willing – will happen one day. But we don’t need grace for sadness fifteen years from now. We need grace for today’s.
When my mind wanders too far into the future, I try to stop those thoughts and take them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) lest they add to our present sorrows. I remind myself, “Lord, your grace is sufficient for this hour, and tomorrow’s too.”
Grace Doesn’t Have a Savings Account
Grace is not a commodity you can stockpile. It is not an asset stored up in a savings account for you to withdraw at your leisure. No, grace – the kind God gives to help and comfort us in our times of need – is hand-to-mouth. It is moment-by-moment, one-day-at-a-time. To receive grace requires humbling ourselves before the Father, like a small child, and asking Him to meet our needs.
But we’re not hand-to-mouth people. At least that’s not what we desire to be. We like to accumulate goods and supplies. We enjoy going to a full refrigerator. We keep the pantry stocked with everything we like so we can retrieve what we want. Independence is our prized virtue. Having the kind of life we can manage on our own is the unspoken desire.
The bad news: independence is an illusion. We are not independent. To live like we possess everything we need to face life on our own is a sham. Like a bird dependent upon its wings to fly, we need God’s help daily or we will crash to the ground. And nothing reveals our need for God like trials and afflictions. Pain and suffering are black-belts at exposing the fallacy of our self-reliance.
A question my wife and I have gotten for years is, “How are you doing?” We get asked a form of this question constantly. Kaleb’s medical issues generated the question. He was hospitalized off and on for fifteen years with sickness and surgeries. We shared incredible experiences with him. Not everything was sad. But hardships were common. I get why people always asked us.
Since his passing on 12/01/2019, we still get asked daily, just for different reasons. The question doesn’t bother us — so don’t wonder if you’ve asked us (you probably have) or panic that we’re offended (we’re not). People ask us because they love and care about us, and that means a lot to our family. Sometimes people ask because they don’t know what else to say. We understand.
Our response is not a cliche, though the hundreds of times we’ve said it can make it seem that way. Our philosophy and approach to life during all of Kaleb’s health issues and passing is this: one day at a time.
“How are you guys doing?”
“Hanging in there. We’re just taking it one day at a time.”
We don’t say this flippantly to satisfy their inquiry. It’s legitimately how we survive. And the answer I give every time someone asks me is the answer the person asking should adopt for their lives too. Everyone reading this sentence needs to learn one-day-at-time dependence upon the Lord.
Why Live This Way?
Over the last fifteen years, Jesus’ instruction to pray for “this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) has made more sense than ever before. Each day we must come with our hands open to receive what only God has the resources to give us. He alone is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). It’s not our circumstances that comfort us, but His presence. It’s not freedom from life’s problems that brings peace, it’s communion with the Savior who is the Prince of Peace.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Worrying about tomorrow’s problems robs us of peace. Anxiety thrives off of worry. And that worry is generated by focusing too much on the future. A future that we don’t control.
Today has enough problems. We take life one day at a time. Anything more than that overwhelms us.
Before Kaleb’s passing, one-day-at-a-time living was necessary because letting our thoughts roam about all the possible “what-if’s” the future could hold led to worry and anxiety. Since Kaleb’s death, our one-day-at-a-time focus helps us trust God for the comfort and grace we need to make it through our current pain.
Paul pleaded with Jesus to remove his affliction. Three different times he asks him to take away the thorn in his flesh, the messenger from Satan. Instead of relief, Jesus offers something better: all-sufficient grace.
Jesus tells Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Jesus will be enough for Paul in his afflictions. The grace of Christ will sustain and strengthen Paul in his sufferings. In the hour of need, Jesus will supply him ample provisions. And what is true of Paul is true for all who are in Christ. Help from Jesus, to endure what we do not think we can survive, is available to us.
You Can’t Imagine It
People have always told us they can’t imagine going through what our family has endured. And I am quick to tell them they’re right. They can’t. Neither could we. We couldn’t imagine it either, prior to going through it. But thankfully, Jesus doesn’t ask us to imagine going through trials and pains beforehand. The promise of all-sufficient grace in our moment of need is not a grace to imagine enduring trials, but the actual receiving of grace in our trials.
We have experienced painful times as a family. The things we have suffered are not trials we signed up for in advance. Nobody signs up. They come without permission or warning and force us to deal with them. There’s no advance comfort for afflictions. We receive the comfort and grace Jesus gives from the fire. He supplies grace in the throes of our sorrows.
You cannot imagine going through difficult times with a calm heart. But you don’t have to. He will supply grace and help in your hour of need. He has done that for my family. If there’s anything at all to imitate from our family, it’s not our strength. We’re about as sturdy as a marshmallow under a semi-truck. No, if there’s anything to learn from us, it’s recognizing how weak and needy you are, and letting that send you daily into the presence and arms of your all-sufficient Savior, Jesus.
We Don’t Possess What We Need
Grace is received. It is not something we possess on our own. We can’t produce it. It originates from the goodness and love of Christ. He distributes it; we receive it. With the empty hands of faith, Jesus gives us grace for our needs.
Only grace sustains hurting people amid their suffering and pain, and we don’t own the grace needed to make it through life’s heartbreaking pains. But here’s the good news that changes everything: Jesus does. And he invites us to receive our fill from him.
Jesus’ grace is sufficient for our every need. There’s enough of it to sustain us through every trial or pain. But we don’t get to stockpile it. It’s not stored on the shelf. We must go to Christ daily, sometimes by the hour, if we want to drink deeply of his grace when the rain comes.