Recently I had the opportunity to show/ give grace to people in situations where I would have partly been totally justified to say no, enough. But it’s painful and they need to feel my pain! So how can we show grace when it hurts amid our pain response to someone else’s decisions?

What is grace?

To describe grace, I would say it’s receiving something we don’t deserve/haven’t earned.

Or receiving mercy when we deserve justice. It’s a gift we haven’t paid for but been given out of love.

Ephesians 2:8+9 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

What can grace look like?

An easy situation is when a child knocks over our favourite cup and it breaks. And we say it’s ok, they didn’t mean it. 

Or if we’re standing in line at a coffee shop and there is only one of our favourite cakes left and we so want it. But then, the person in front of us orders it. We have a split second to choose how we respond to our unexpected disappointment. Graciously or with a mini semi-internal tantrum. 

Having grace in how we react in different situations:

Where you work.

Our workplace, it’s regularly challenging. When we have grace, it’s easy for us to handle the stress or people who demand a lot from us with little notice. We don’t mind giving more hours than we’re paid for or doing more than our job description. But then we feel a change in season and know God is inviting us to take a different job. Suddenly it’s harder to go in earlier, stay later or have a good attitude towards that demanding person. Or we feel the stress is taking a more considerable toll than it used to. 

In the place you’re living.

I lived with a Hindu Brahmin family in North India. They were great, my room was opposite the kitchen and beside the living room, I could hear everything that went on in the house and I felt part of the family and could really see and understand how they lived… It was an adjustment from living in the UK, but I enjoyed seeing how those totally opposite cultures and beliefs lived and what we had in common… I got great insight into the Hindu culture and they got to see my western Christian lifestyle. But, after two years, when I knew that season was shifting, my grace for the heat, noise, privacy (or lack of it) was draining me and more challenging to have a good attitude about. Little things that used to be amusing were now frustrating. I felt the heaviness of the spiritual atmosphere more than before. It was confirmation that it was time to move on to what God had for me next, that this season was changing. 

When we’ve been fine to live there, handle the different things that have come up. Even when others say to you, “I don’t know how you can handle it”, you’re not sure why they see it as so difficult as they do. But, then, you sense a change / know the time to be there has ended and it’s time to move. Then what happens? Even small things happen and affect us way more than they used to. We get annoyed quickly, tired, and feel like we are walking uphill, or everything requires a lot more effort than it used to. 

It’s not like, in reality, the situation has suddenly got more demanding, but our ability to respond or handle it well is now a lot less. So we describe it as having less grace to handle it anymore. And see it as confirmation that it’s time to make a shift. 

We can go through tough times that others wonder why we didn’t break or punch the person who’s overstepped or quit earlier. Looking back, we might wonder why it didn’t affect us as much as we now see it could have. But instead, we see and are thankful that we had the grace and strength to handle it because it didn’t affect us too much. We recognise we had the inner strength and energy to cope with it all (sometimes with ease) and that it came from God, not ourselves.

So what does it mean to extend grace—when it hurts?

Recently I’d had a few different situations come about where God has asked me to show grace instead of justice. Where I’ve had the opportunity to consciously make the decision to extend grace and forgiveness when it’s not been asked for. On the other side, those involved have made choices that they feel are correct, yet to me, they are the wrong decisions and caused me (and others pain). But God has asked me to show grace. To not ask or expect them to see their mistakes and ask for forgiveness. Not letting my yes be conditional based on how they now respond or walk out repentance. To extend grace as He does towards me. 

I have consciously known in each situation that I could have said no, it’s not fair, they’ve not seen it from our perspective and if they would have—then they wouldn’t have done what they did! 

But God has lovingly asked me to show grace. To see that from their broken side, they did what they were able to do. Even though it wasn’t the best. And the most loving thing I can do for them is to extend grace and forgiveness. To give Him my pain, anger, shock, unanswered questions, frustration at seeing all the unwise, even cowardly choices they have made, which have impacted me negatively. 

But who am I to demand fairness and justice while also receiving God’s grace and forgiveness. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

My own sin demands death. But Jesus, out of love for me, gave His life to pay the price for my sin. He showed me colossal grace to pay for all my sin for free. I have done nothing to deserve it. But to accept His love and relationship. 

We are called to be like Christ 

Philippians 2: 1-3

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves…. ” (Continue to read through to verse 11).

Therefore—such a massive word. Because of what has happened before, my response needs to come out of that same heart attitude. I have been shown grace and forgiveness and given abundant life. Therefore, if I want to be like Christ, I am compelled/ highly encouraged to show grace and extend forgiveness. It’s not costing me my life (hallelujah). But Jesus can take my pain and AHHHHH and heal me. He asks me to give to Him, to lay at His feet all my AHHHHH and receive in its place healing, love, compassion and tender-heartedness and say, it’s ok, I love you. 

I want my heart to stay soft and grow in its capacity to love and give as Christ has given me. Not to harden to protect or do as the world says I am within my rights to do. Instead, to allow God and the Holy Spirit to protect my heart and heal what’s hurting instead of trying to make myself feel better. Thus to not shove down my pain and say it’s wrong, but to live it up into my heavenly Father’s arms and ask for help and healing.

Now, on the other side.

I am happy to be on the other side of this now. To feel calm and at peace when I think about those situations. Yes, there are a few twinges of pain, but they aren’t tied to anything that tries to make me feel negative towards those involved. But to extend compassion because they too were struggling and hurting. 

I take strength from knowing that in choosing the more difficult path for myself, I’ve shut the door of opportunity that Satan could have used to break the relationships, to cause my heart to harden and stand in a place of pride instead of humility. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for opportunities to walk through situations like these regularly. But to know these ordinary opportunities come up in life, especially when we’re vulnerable because sad stuff happens in life. But God will use them as a fiery test opportunity to see what we choose. To trust God and walk in His ways, or to turn to our own way. 

I am enjoying the peace, fruit and freedom in my life now because I’ve passed the test and chosen to go deeper with God as a result of it. But I also don’t stand in pride seeing how well I’ve done. But continue to kneel in humility, knowing that I couldn’t have done it without Christ, the Holy Spirit and His gift of grace and healing. And of course, some wise, loving people around me, we don’t need to go through tough times alone. We are part of the body. And for these, I am very thankful to have them in my life. 

Where are you at?

As you’re reading this, I don’t know where you are if you have a situation causing you pain. Or the thought of extending grace or forgiveness to someone that doesn’t see the need for it. It’s tough. I totally get it. But ask yourself this — how does Jesus see that person/ situation? Ask God to show you His heart and perspective. And totally ask God to come and meet you in your pain and questions. Be completely open and honest with God, shout, cry, just be fully authentic with Him. He’s not judging you for having those emotions and thoughts. But it’s what you do with them that counts. Give them up into His loving arms and receive His love, healing and grace in return. Allow yourself to show yourself and others the love and kindness that He extends to you right now. Ask Him to fill every crevice of your heart, body and mind that is struggling just now. 

Remember these promises:

“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” [1 Thessalonians 5:24]

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful.” [Jeremiah 31: 3+4]

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” [2 Corinthians 12:9]

If you’d like to delve deeper into the topic of grace here are 2 books I’d recommend:

  1. Philip Yancey’s What’s so amazing about grace
  2. Chuck Smith’s Why Grace Changes Everything

John Bevere talks about God’s grace in several of his books and teachings. But here’s one looking just at grace: YouTube-Grace part 1

If you know of other great resources to help us delve into understanding and living out grace – please share with us.

Other blogs I’ve written which could help you if you’re struggling: I’ve always got Hope; What stops me from being the leader I want to be; How can we be less stressed.