Do I Value Sustaining Grace

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photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar

 

I walk into Bible study ready to talk about prayer. I’m not sure how honest I want to be. While I know there is inexpressible value in prayer, I’ve had my own struggles with it, especially when people talk about miraculous answers they have received.

Answers that come moments after they’ve prayed. For the first time. When I’ve prayed for the same thing. For years. And nothing has changed.

Some of my prayers have remained unanswered for decades.

I share this with my group, tentative about saying it aloud. My disappointment sounds so unspiritual, so faithless, so shallow.

But then Florence says something that grabs my attention. “You never hear anyone in the Bible complaining about the parting of the Red Sea. Everyone loves delivering grace. But the Israelites, like us, were not satisfied with manna. We all complain about sustaining grace.”

We all complain about sustaining grace.

Her words hit me hard. I can scarcely pay attention to the rest of the discussion.

Were my prayers for deliverance answered with the gift of sustenance? Do I not see that sustenance is an answer too? And often just as miraculous? Why am I not grateful for manna, the everyday grace of God? When I tell Florence how her words are staying with me, how they are changing everything for me, she writes me an e-mail:

I remember being stunned by the realization of how much I love deliverance and how little I appreciate sustenance. Essentially, saying “Where is the victory in sustenance – it sounds like just getting by.” Wasn’t I scorning grace?

Scorning grace. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing?

In waiting for the monumental deliverance- the kind where I can put my issue to bed and never have to pray about it again- I’ve overlooked the grace that keeps drawing me to Him. The prayers that may appear unanswered, but actually are fulfilled in ways that keep me dependent, tethered, needy.

The children of Israel were familiar with the gift of dependence. They were given manna so they wouldn’t starve as they wandered in the wilderness. But they needed God to provide it daily; they weren’t able to hoard it. And thus they couldn’t avoid total dependence on God.

The Israelites were given manna so that they would rely on God and live by His word. But like me, they often scorned it. It was bland, unexciting, and seemed monotonous. It wasn’t what they asked for. It didn’t seem extraordinary or gloriously victorious like the parting of the Red Sea, or the fall of Jericho. It simply provided for their needs.

I know how they felt. I feel that way too often. I don’t appreciate the way God sustains me through the day with His unfailing love. How He gives me strength when I’m weak. How He graces me with His presence.

I want miraculous deliverance. Not boring sustenance.

But as I look back over my life, I see God has delivered me and answered some prayers with a resounding “yes” in jaw-dropping, inexplicable ways. I remember those answers with gratitude and awe. But the answers of “wait” or “no” have done a far deeper work in my soul. They have kept me connected to the Giver and not His gifts. They have forced me to seek Him. And in seeking Him, I realize that I have been given a supernatural joy beyond all comparison.

A joy not based on my circumstances. Not based on my deliverance. Just based on being with Jesus.

Delivering grace or sustaining grace. Which is more precious?

In delivering grace, we see God’s glory. Everyone can see the miracle that He has wrought for us. And usually our lives are easier. We have what we asked for. And we thank and bless God for it. But after that, we often go back to the business of living. Sometimes we even forget about what’s He’s done because we don’t need to keep going back to Him.

But sustaining grace. That’s different. God’s glory is in that too-– but the miracle He works is in us. Our lives are changed because our perspective is different. But we need to ask continually for this grace. This grace is not a one-time thing, like manna was not a one-time event. We need it every day. And it keeps us dependent on God. With sustaining grace, we get more of Jesus. His comfort, His nearness, His very presence.

Both delivering grace and sustaining grace are essential. They are interconnected.

Delivering grace is vital. We need to pray for it. It’s biblical. Life can be relentlessly hard, and we need to know that the situation can change, that our prayers are being heard, that God wants to bless us. Without the possibility of deliverance, we’d lose hope. We might stop praying. We’d wonder if we could go on.

But it is in the asking, even begging, for deliverance and in the subsequent waiting for it, that we get sustaining grace. The grace to press on in the midst of trial. And this grace is accompanied by the intimate presence of the living God.

So when I am sustained but not delivered, God is inviting me to see the miracle I have received. It is a more precious answer to prayer than I ever realized.

Manna, my daily bread, the Bread of Life Himself.    

 

 

  • January 24, 2014 - 11:10 am

    Brian - So good, Vaneetha. Thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

    • January 24, 2014 - 11:07 pm

      Vaneetha - You’re welcome, Brian. Glad you were blessed by it!ReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2014 - 11:13 am

    Maggie - Vaneetha, I love you so much. This is just beautiful. I needed this message today! (Ok- maybe everyday)ReplyCancel

    • January 24, 2014 - 11:03 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much, Maggie. I’m so thankful it was a blessing to you. I miss you!ReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2014 - 12:24 pm

    Kevin Magnuson - Very thought provoking to me Vaneetha. Won’t we learn so much when we get to speak to Jesus face to face. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • January 24, 2014 - 11:01 pm

      Vaneetha - We will learn a lot that day, Kevin. That will be a glorious day- no more suffering or pain- just Jesus!ReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2014 - 2:55 pm

    Jennifer - My favorite post so far! I’ll remember this one for a long time. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2014 - 11:02 pm

    Julie Owen - Vaneetha, thank you for inviting me to your blog. This message was so timely and convicting to my soul. Praising God with you for sustaining grace!ReplyCancel

    • January 24, 2014 - 11:11 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for reading it, Julie! As I wrote the post, I was overwhelmed by the blessing of sustaining grace. I’ve overlooked it far too often!ReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2014 - 11:31 pm

    Karen - I have honestly never heard this expressed in such a perfect way. it was like a flood light came on. this could not have been more timely. Thank you so much for sharing. When is your book coming out because I am buying the first copy!?ReplyCancel

    • January 24, 2014 - 11:39 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Karen. Its funny, the floodlight just came on for me last week- so I was so happy to share it!ReplyCancel

  • January 25, 2014 - 4:46 pm

    Jennifer Oosterhouse - Hi Vaneentha. Thank you! I love the words ….Sustaining Grace! I was calling it Grace pricks, and you gave me beautiful words for the pain of light engulfing love.ReplyCancel

    • January 25, 2014 - 10:53 pm

      Vaneetha - You are welcome, Jennifer! So glad it was a blessing!ReplyCancel

  • January 31, 2014 - 6:20 pm

    Danelle - Vaneetha, this is beautiful. And you are right… it does remind me of Joni. Your words a reminder and blessing to me. Looking forward to seeing you soon! XO – DanelleReplyCancel

    • January 31, 2014 - 8:23 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks Danelle! Excited to see you both soon. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 8, 2014 - 11:56 am

    Roxanne - Thank you so much for this honest, God revealing post!! So needed for our life’s many journeys. Thanks for making it plain. For if not, many would miss the simple fact that His sustaining grace is the answer in the midst of the journey.ReplyCancel

    • February 8, 2014 - 5:03 pm

      Vaneetha - Roxanne, thank you so much for writing. Encouraged you are finding His sustaining grace in your journey.ReplyCancel

  • February 10, 2014 - 10:05 am

    Phyllis - Dear Vaneetha, I just discovered you on the Desiring God website and your words have an authenticity and clarity that have opened my eyes and encouraged my aching heart last night. I have often been troubled by the quick deliverance prayers that others have prayed and received answers to when my prayers seem to go unanswered for years.
    Sustaining Grace and Daily Manna have a new meaning for me now.
    I have gone thru your archives and have learned from each blog. Thank you for sharing your heart and how God has kept you with Sustaining Grace yourself.
    sincerely Phyllis.ReplyCancel

    • February 10, 2014 - 10:46 am

      Vaneetha - Manna is so easy to overlook, isn’t it. I have overlooked it for years, waiting for deliverance. I, too, am discovering what a blessing manna is. Thank you for writing, Phyllis. So thankful God used this to encourage you.ReplyCancel

  • February 12, 2014 - 11:34 am

    Brenda - Father,
    Forgive us for not recognizing, for not falling on our faces in thanksgiving for your moment-by-moment, day-by-day, sufficient and nourishing and lasting mercies and gift of Your very presence that enable us to not only endure, but to bring you glory in the midst of the pains and the sorrows You so wisely and lovingly allow into our lives. What a good God You are; how merciful and long-suffering; Your steadfast love extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.ReplyCancel

  • March 11, 2014 - 3:47 pm

    Laura - I just found your post on Desiring God. What a blessing! I had just been reading posts about coping with chronic illness from Psychology Today written by a Buddhist. I knew that there had to be Biblical answers, and your posts were my answer. Thanks for being so open and honest with your struggles. I also struggle with a chronic illness that keeps me mostly home bound and isolated. Thanks for helping me to realize I need to thank God for sustaining grace and continue to trust in him.ReplyCancel

    • March 11, 2014 - 4:51 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Laura. Chronic illness can be so very discouraging. I am thankful God used my blog to encourage you. When I see how His sustaining grace through pain and loss has molded my faith and given me more of Him, I am grateful. He is sufficient. Thankful that Jesus carries you, me, all of us, through our trials.ReplyCancel

  • September 3, 2014 - 7:32 pm

    Thankful for …. | hopeful.thankful.blessed - […] Sustaining grace for every day […]ReplyCancel

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