Dark Grace: God Wastes Nothing

In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. — Ephesians 1:11

When the night sky frays to day, smudged light coming up over fields, I wake Levi.

Today’s our date with the city hospital, an operating table, a surgeon. He’s sleepy. He drags to the back door, holding his splint and bandaged hand to his chest, and I tie his shoelaces. The Farmer leans against the open door and takes my hand and I take Levi’s other one. We will pray for the going, the cutting, the healing. Then it comes, this murmur, and from my lips…

“Lord…” All the feelings since the blade and the breaking, all my questioning and asking, they swell, hot lava to the surface, and I choke it back, the thick farming hand squeezing mine.

“… that I’d day after day after day greedily take what looks like it’s good from Your hand — a child gloating over sweet candy…” My voice catches hard. I’ve been a thief, trying to hoard away all the good.

“… but that I’d thrash wild to escape when what You give from Your hand feels bad — like gravel in the mouth. Oh, Father, forgive… Shall I accept good from You, and not trouble?”

I pray Job’s words and heat flows down liquid.

What if that which feels like trouble, gravel in the mouth, is only that — feeling? What if faith says all is… I think it. But do I really mean it?

I gather up Levi and hand and the man at the door kisses us both good-bye and we wind through the dawn dark. The radio snaps out sound bites of presidents, celebrities. I click off the radio and flip over to Scripture on CD. The gospel of Matthew. In the slumber of towns, the odd kitchen light flashes by. “Jesus said…” “And then Jesus replied…” “And a voice from heaven said…” My fingers wrap hard around the steering wheel. At a graying intersection of two empty country roads, I idle long, stunned. It’s coming out of the same stereo speakers, like the voices of presidents, dignitaries.

These are the words of God.

Headlights make holes in the slate morning. I nudge Levi gentle, awed, “We’re listening to God.” And out of the speakers I hear Him clear:

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’. — Matthew 4:4 NLT

I listen and I live. There is only one way to live full and it is “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

It is all that Jesus used to survive in the desert, in His wrangle with silver-tongued Lucifer, only this: “It is written.” And it’s the Word of God that turns the rocks in the mouth to loaves on the tongue. That makes the eyes see, the body fill with light.

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I glance at the clock. Levi is to roll into the operating theater in three hours. The Word of God whispers through the speakers. Levi drifts back to sleep. The countryside splits open, the earth unpeeled into sun. The wheat wears gold.

I drive out of dark and into morning glory, awakened to the strange truth that all new life comes out of the dark places, and hasn’t it always been? Out of darkness, God spoke forth the teeming life. That wheat round and ripe across all these fields, they swelled as hope embryos in womb of the black earth. Out of the dark, tender life unfurled. Out of my own inner pitch, six human beings emerged, new life, wet and fresh.

All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness.

Fullest life itself dawns from nothing but Calvary darkness and tomb-cave black into the radiance of Easter morning.

And there is no other way.

Then… yes:

It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace.

And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering.

I need to breathe.

I roll down the window. I inhale the pungency of a passing hayfield in bloom of clover, ditches with those all together wild black-eyed Susans swaying in early air. I try to think straight, truest straight. My pain, my dark — all the world’s pain, all the world’s dark — it might actually taste sweet to the tongue, be the genesis of new life?

Yes. And emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only Begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy.

So God transfigures all the world? Darkness transfigures into light, bad transfigures into good, grief transfigures into grace, empty transfigures into full. God wastes nothing — makes everything work out according to His plan.

We pull into the hospital parking lot, and I park across from an entrance sign that reads Oncology. I open the door for Levi.

I wear my lenses and I pray to see. Who knows when you might climb a mount of transfiguration?

God, all the world is an opportunity to behold more of Your transfiguring darkness into grace. I won’t ever get over it. I’m beholden to it all my life, now and forever. I want to accept all You give and learn to see into the darkness as You do, as a place to fill with Your light. Help me, Father. Help me to see in the dark.

Excerpted with permission from One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp, copyright Ann Morton Voskamp.

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Your Turn

When we are in a time of serious crisis or pain, it’s so easy to start to resent God, to feel that He is unfair, or punishing us, or maybe that He has abandoned us. It’s so hard to see the mere possibility that Jesus will use this suffering for good. That it is not a waste. That that particular grief may yet be pregnant with His grace. How in your own life have you found that to be true? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear your story! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full

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Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp is the wife of one fine, down-to-earth farmer; a book-reading mama to a posse of seven; and the author of the New York Times bestsellers One Thousand Gifts, which has sold more than one million copies, and The Broken Way. Named by Christianity Today as one of fifty women most shaping culture and the church today, Ann knows unspoken brokenness and big country skies and an intimacy with God that touches wounded places. Millions do life with her at her daily photographic online journal, one of the top 10 most widely read Christian sites: www.annvoskamp.com

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