“Turn my striving into works of grace…”
This line, from a song in one of the newer collections of hymns by Keith and Kristyn Getty, reminds me: sometimes trying too hard is not a sign of spiritual depth, but a sign of fear that something will not work out the way I want.
Do I believe God will hear my prayer more closely if I stay up “too late” or get up much too early to pray? Will these choices make me feel more spiritual than someone who prays during their lunch hour?
Am I struggling to tolerate someone I live or work with, forcing a smile when I’d rather strike out? Do I say “Praise the Lord!” fifty times per day because I need to block the more colorful words that might emerge when I consider some constantly irritating, seemingly un-solvable circumstance?
Do I pray over and over for the same thing because I believe God won’t take me seriously unless I endlessly repeat a single request? How willing am I to say this to God: “I am not sure what should happen in this situation. I will leave it up to You, God. Do what you wish to do with me and with everyone involved. I will be satisfied.”?
How satisfied can I be if I don’t get what I want from God? How satisfied am I willing to be?
Do I believe that by quoting Bible verses to God during prayer I am “reminding” God of His responsibilities to and for me? Someone actually said that to me. My thought was this: if limited humans have to “remind” God of anything, we are really in trouble. What happens if I forget to remind God of the right thing at the right time? Do I think God has an attitude of forgetfulness, or the ability to un-remember His commitments to His people?
What is much more likely is that I am striving to make something happen because I don’t see how I can get by or be satisfied unless a certain outcome emerges.
Do I believe, that by the grace of God, I can handle the end of a job, an unwanted divorce, or the loss of a house? What happens if my troubled child doesn’t make better choices in life? Is God’s grace in me sufficient for me to move forward, upward, and have a good life in spite of this type of loss?
Am I truly willing to go on and move forward if I don’t get “my way”? Do I define “forward movement” and “blessing” as getting my way, on my schedule?
Do I believe God has something good for me even if the loan doesn’t go through, I don’t get the job or internship, or I have to relocate my family? What if the medical tests come back with an unwanted report? Does God still support me if my pension and health care benefits change, decline, or perhaps even go away?
Do I believe I must pray “hard”, cry bitter tears, and weep before the Lord in order to stave off a disaster of some sort? I don’t know if there is anything wrong with weeping and expressing my feelings to God. But if I think doing these things will get me a certain, or “better”, outcome, I’m in a state of striving. Striving is tiring, distracting, painful, and full of pressure. Grace is peaceful, energizing, and honest. If I ever have anything good in my life, it is because of the grace of God.
Today, I ask God to turn my strivings into works of grace. Let my actions be based on the certainty that God loves, hears, cares, answers, and provides. My prayer is this: let me release my fear of the unwanted and embrace the grace of God’s choices for my life.