A Grace Disguised . . . And A Path Chosen
The Metamorphyx Journey - Part III
Jerry Sittser wrote A Grace Disguised. He could easily qualify as a “victim” of his circumstances. On a lonely road in Idaho one afternoon, a drunk driver drifted into his lane and collided head-on with his minivan. The crash killed his mother, his wife and his young daughter. Yet miraculously, in the rearview mirror of life, Sittser marks that devastating event as a “grace disguised.”
The idea that trials, trauma, and suffering in our lives can be a shrouded blessing is really tough theology—particularly when one links a Sovereign God to those events—and the mind-cramping notion that God’s love for us is sometimes packaged in devastating circumstances that challenge the premise that he is ultimately in control of everything.
Our circumstances, however, need not define us or cast us into victimhood. That’s the dirty work of despair and hopelessness. In the side pocket of my car door is a small devotional that I’ve carried with me for twenty-five years. It remains opened to January 2, 1994. The page is ragged, and coffee stained, but the message is timeless: “The wise people of today are those whose journey is determined by what they believe instead of having what they believe determined by their journey.”
Victimhood rejects life change. It cries out to life experience, “No! I’ll stay wounded, thank you!” That death knell poisons one’s mind, contributes to learned helplessness, scuttles initiative and defeats resilient life purpose . . . and there the journey of life stalls. Take note, there will always be catastrophic events and trials in this broken world; Jesus guarantees it. “In this world you will have trouble,” he says, “But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Faith and hope in God’s ultimate goodness are despair’s antidotes. Take the ancient nation of Israel, for example. The prophet Jeremiah’s forecast proved stunningly accurate. After seventy years in exile at the hands of their Babylonian captives—some fifty thousand men and their families—returned to Jerusalem. Exile and hardship wasn’t all bad. The Jewish rabble made their way back home with a reconstituted faith and a keen awareness that life purpose is best understood through the lens of affliction. And there’s no hint in the Hebrew Scriptures that the returning exiles were victims. On the contrary, they learned faith disciplines and hard lessons in their exile that God sovereignly inserted into their lives.
God in the Scriptures is frequently portrayed as a Rock . . . the bedrock of our lives. Sure, we easily run to the Rock in jubilation and thanksgiving when things are going well . . . but we must also run to that same Rock of Ages in prayer and submission when painful circumstances obliterate life’s norms. But that’s a choice . . . and it distinguishes one’s pathway in life. Will we choose to walk as a victim of our circumstances . . . or like Sittser, choose to persevere in the “furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10) while desperately searching for the disguised grace of God’s sovereignty and everlasting love.
Life learners aspiring to flourish in life purpose are acutely aware that they must process life experience, discern life-change implications, and chart a course where they can humbly declare in the wisdom of reflection, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I may learn your decrees” (Ps. 119:71).
Many of us don’t make that high-minded declaration when rogue waves threaten our very existence and our ship begins to sink. Some choose quite the opposite. But affliction and trials can generate a learned response that can guide every step of one’s future pathway and heighten our spiritual vigilance on the journey.
If your circumstances have hardened you and made you bitter . . . or if you can’t find meaning or redeeming purpose in life’s storms, then I zealously implore you to find your way back to the Rock of Ages and the bedrock of your faith. He can lead you to a “pivot point” in life, and a new future you never imagined possible. In a nutshell, that’s the Metamorphyx journey.
There is, of course, no linear equation for embracing life experience, life change and thriving in life purpose. If anyone offers you one, run from them! Life change will always be a highly personalized process and never an overnight event. It’s only the Spirit of God who can lead you to an authentic life purpose breakthrough.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).