Balancing Grace

Balancing Grace

Over the last several days, I’ve been reading my two current books, and laughing inside because both of them are talking about some of the same themes, just in very different terms. And the major theme that they’ve both been highlighting has been the gospel…

Am I the only one that cringes a bit when I say that phrase? “The Gospel.” It’s become such a Christianese buzz-word. But then, while reading Jennifer Dukes Lee’s “The Happiness Dare” this week, she shared such a beautiful definition of the gospel that I wanted to stop and close my eyes and bask in it.

“This is the gospel. Jesus stood at the edge of a hole and he heard people crying for help. But God didn’t write a prescription and throw it down the hole. He didn’t pray and then walk away. He jumped into the hole. Jesus forfeited heaven and lived on the inside of every hole, every mess, every valley you could imagine.” (Lee, 178)

I WANT THAT GOSPEL! I’ve spent enough time in deep, dark, scary, painful holes in my life that I WANT a Jesus who will come down into the hole with me! He brings the light. He brings the ladder. He brings the Band-aids and the Kool-aid and makes it bearable until I can get out.

That gospel sounds so easy and so good. But life doesn’t feel that easy or that good. And this is where our book discussion book picks up. In “The Discipline of Grace,” Jerry Bridges recognizes that difficulty, and he admits that sometimes we don’t feel the grace of the gospel. Jesus holds out the salve for our wounds, but the sting is so terrible that we don’t feel it right away. What, then, is the remedy?

“[When we feel condemned] we must preach the gospel to ourselves.” (Bridges, 54)

Okay, wait. Is it really that simple?

“To preach the Gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life.” (Bridges, 58)

Hold up the bus. Nobody said anything about having to face up to my sins and faults.

But that’s what has to happen.

A couple of years ago, I was dog-sitting for a friend. I had gotten up early to walk the dog before going to work, and while we were walking, the adorable little fuzzball saw a squirrel and took off after it. That’s what dogs do! But I was wearing flip flops with no traction, and I was wearing yoga pants with no padding. And so when we hit a spot of slippery ground, I went down hard and fast. And when I hit the rocky ground, the rocks easily tore through my yoga pants and my tender skin. I got the dog rounded up and limped inside, shivering and wet. Looking down at my legs I knew that fixing the damage was going to require more than just a bandage and a boo-boo kiss. There was dirt and blood and gravel embedded in my leg, and before it could be fixed, it had to be cleaned. And so I stepped into the shower.

I gotta tell you, I almost passed out during the process. It was excruciating. I had tears streaming down my face and nausea welling up in my belly. But it had to be done.

Today, there isn’t even a scar.

We don’t like facing the ugly, painful stuff. We really, really don’t like it. But not dealing with the ugliness of our lives is like slapping a Hello Kitty Band-aid on a compound fracture. It’s not going to work. We can fool ourselves for a little while. If we bandage it prettily enough, we can even fool others for a while. But eventually, we have to face the truth — no matter how ugly it is.

When a person is going through a twelve step program to deal with addiction, step nine is to make amends to people where it is possible. For people of faith, that means making amends to God and people we have hurt and ourselves. And it’s a step we can’t skip. It’s hard. But it’s worth it.

This is the third week of our discussion on Jerry Bridges’ book, The Discipline of Grace. You don’t have to read the book to chat with us. We thank you for hanging out and sharing your thoughts with us! If you are participating in the book discussion and you’ve written a response, you will find the widget this week over at my co-facilitator, Jason’s place — Connecting to Impact. Hop on over there and link up! See you back here next week!

About Sarah Salter


  1. Barbara says:

    Boy you tackled a tough one tonight.. but as usual you “Hit a Home Run”….Some of the things you said can apply to a lot of thing… Thanks, as usual for sharing Sista Sarah!!

  2. The process of growth and discipleship happens all the days of our lives. I think this is what Bridges means by “preaching the gospel to ourselves.” Growth can be painful, like digging the gravel out from our skin. Thanks, Sarah!

  3. Yes, growth is painful, most of the time. I loved your analogy of having to get the gravel removed to the nauseating way we feel when we confess our sins. But, oh, how the anguish is all worth it in the end!
    Blessings, Sarah!

  4. Life is messy. Growth hurts. We want to avoid pain. There’s much in the world to distract us from these realities but eventually they must be faced. I’m so thankful Christ is willing to face them with us. His grace is enough but it’s our choice to accept it. Sadly I’m guilty of accepting His salvation but wanting to leave Him out of my life. He wants to lead me closer Him by way of the cross-dying to self. He wants to take me through the valleys I want to go around. He’s concerned with who I am more than how I feel. Learning to trust Him and His way isn’t easy. I’m so glad He is patient and full of grace. I need it. Daily i messs up and daily I need the Gospel.

  5. I know this, but I need constant reminders. There are no shortcuts, but He is faithful in the process. Thanks for the reminder, Sarah.

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