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Grace is enough
Amber Albee Swenson
by Amber Albee Swenson
July 8, 2024

In the Old Testament, God brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt where they had been enslaved for over 400 years. They barely had their first breaths of freedom when Pharoah changed his mind and gathered his army to bring the people back.

The Israelites found themselves in an impossible situation. From the shores of the Red Sea, they faced two equally horrible outcomes: drown or be recaptured and taken back to Egypt.

That’s when God stepped in. He parted the sea and made a path for the Israelites to walk through. As soon as they were safely on the other side of the sea, God withdrew his miraculous hand of provision, and the sea returned to normal, sweeping away the Egyptian army.

My guess is you have experienced some Red Sea moments. Those are the times God intervenes just when you think you’re going to lose your mind or your job or your health or your marriage. Somehow God makes a way and trouble is averted … again.

But sometimes God doesn’t choose to deliver us that way. Sometimes his provision looks more like manna in the desert.

Those same people whom God brought through the Red Sea eventually made it to the land of Canaan. God brought them to the border and told Moses to send men to explore the land he was giving to the Israelites.

Unfortunately, the men who explored the land were intimidated by the inhabitants of Canaan and decided it was too much to believe God could and would give them the land. They convinced the others it was impossible, and as a result they didn’t enter the land. They wandered for 40 years in the desert.

Even there in the wilderness God provided. He rained bread from heaven (manna) six days a week for the people to eat.

Often, I end up in wilderness seasons—sometimes thanks to my own inadequacies or regretful choices, sometimes just because of life—only to find God doesn’t part a sea or remove the obstacles. Instead, he provides strength for each day, friends to encourage and support me, and just enough of whatever else I need to make it through.

Being in lengthy, perpetually difficult seasons is mentally and spiritually exhausting. Prayers for relief seem unanswered. Friends tire of the same conversation. They don’t want to hear about the prodigal that went back to the pigpen again or the hurt that came back. We like long story short, not long story long.

But maybe God’s purpose is bigger than our exhaustion and worn-out friends. Maybe this saga keeps us dependent on him. Maybe it keeps us humble. Maybe he’s entrusted us with this, and his grace is sufficient.

The apostle Paul came to that conclusion. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, he reveals:

In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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.

That thorn in Paul’s flesh felt like it was straight from hell, and it tormented him. It wasn’t an inconvenience or a minor irritation but severe mental or physical suffering. Three times Paul asked God to relieve him.

Three.

I hear you. Three sounds amazing, because for you it’s been 10 years or 6 trips to rehab or 4 boyfriends or 8 jobs or 20 prescriptions or 2,000 seemingly unanswered prayers.

Maybe God answered Paul so that we too would have an answer. No. Not yet. Grace is enough.

We take it for granted, but grace, God’s undeserved love, is no small thing. Of all that we’ve been given, grace trumps it all. It’s why Jesus forgave a paralytic’s sins before healing his body. Because rehab and relationships and prodigals and trauma sting and squeeze and torment, but hell is eternal, and Jesus knew we couldn’t deal with that.

If the pain keeps me on my knees begging God for help, then let me boast that God loves me so much that he wants to hold my hand! If the wayward child opens a door so others who know the same pain find my door open, then Jesus be praised for preparing me for this ministry.

I want to be the strong one who smiles, never gets emotional, and has it all together. Paul took the opposite approach. His weakness was his boast because it showed his insufficiency and God’s ability.

Maybe we can start living like grace is enough too. And this pain, this torment, this thing that hurts might be God trusting you to serve him and his people better.