Granting God’s Grace in Difficult Situations
When my teenage son and his girlfriend told me they were expecting, I had to learn to extend God’s grace to them as He always has to me. It was tough…ooooh boy, it was tough. Once I turned to God and remembered the grace He had extended me in so many situations, I was able to extend that grace to my son. It didn’t come easily even though I had previously thought I had my relationship with God allll figured out.
Frequently, I write about the death of my dear friend and share with you all the devastating grief I experienced, beginning with my seeming total loss of faith through my journey of discovery – of God, myself, who I am in Him. Grief has been my faith journey, and I’m thankful for what God has taught me through my struggle.
I grew up in a blended family. My dad and my stepmother married when I was only two. My ‘real’ mother, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, killed herself when I was 11 months old. For a long time, I told people only that she died because she’d been ill. I didn’t mention that her illness was mental illness. I felt a lot of shame in her suicide. I don’t feel that way any more.
My stepmother’s first husband had passed away from a heart attack. My dad had three kids and my mom had three, so we were like the Brady Bunch…we had a big house, lots of toys, my parents had professional careers, we were relatively smart kids who made good grades. We also went to church every week. We did all the right things. My parents expected us to be the best and for sure never ever do anything to embarrass our family. I never would! I did all the right things, too, but I still lived my life feeling unworthy and unaccepted. It wasn’t my family that made me feel that way; the support of my family has always carried me through. It was just something inside of me, some part of me that felt such insecurity. I felt, at least from my childhood perspective, like I could not measure up to my siblings. It’s tough as a child to never feel good enough. It’s tough as an adult to never feel good enough, too. And so, when ‘my person’ died, I wanted to die too for a while. Because of my children, my own family, I knew that wasn’t an option. I turned to God for help instead. And with Him, I learned faith and I learned love throughout that time (it took me years), and I continue to learn and hopefully grow in these areas. Once I realized my faith, then I received God’s grace and with it the peace and joy that comes from Him. Listen to this:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
I understand that because of my faith in God and my willingness to trust Him with the depth of my heart, I received His grace. I gladly accepted that gift, but I didn’t know yet that I would need to continue to accept it throughout difficult times. God constantly and continuously gifts us with His grace. In conjunction with that, we have to remember to constantly and continuously accept his gift. His grace doesn’t go away; our willingness or realization that we need to accept it can, though.
Several years ago, my teenage son and his teenage girlfriend came to us to tell us they were pregnant. Remember, in my family we don’t do things ‘wrong’. I was devastated. Teenage pregnancy wasn’t something my family ‘did’.
I’d been afraid of this very thing happening. Moms know things, it’s true. I could tell from the way they behaved that they were getting too serious. I Facebook stalked my son (don’t judge me!) and while I didn’t find anything definite, I was suspicious. I talked with my husband and he talked with our son. Multiple times. We’d raised him in what we thought was an environment in which he would ‘know better’ and ‘do better’.
The night they told me, my son’s girlfriend stayed over for dinner. Pizza. We had pizza every Thursday night as we watched our recorded episode of Survivor from the night before. Typically, she didn’t stay for Survivor, but on that night, she did.
Briefly, I wondered why. It didn’t take long before I found out.
I sat on the couch oblivious to anything ‘wrong’. Together, the young couple stepped forward and stood in front of me. They didn’t speak.
“They have something they need to tell you,” my husband told me. I found out later my son had talked to him first, too nervous to tell me in the beginning.
I remember just staring at them when they told me. I kept thinking someone would give the punchline to this joke. Surely they had to be joking. What would people think? How would a baby affect my life? How would they live? Finish school? Pay bills? And again, what would people think?
No yelling took place that night or ever. No tears were shed…yet. Those came later. Somehow, in that moment, despite the despair I felt, God filled me with the knowledge and ability that these children needed support. My husband, Mark, and I asked them their plans. They wanted the baby no matter what. We let them know we would support them emotionally, financially (as long as they finished school, worked hard, etc.), and physically.
Later, alone in my bedroom, I began to cry. That was the beginning of my nights shut alone in my room crying, unable to sleep, worrying about my son, worrying about his future. I cried for the girlfriend and all she would be giving up.
And I cried for myself. Where had I gone wrong? What did I miss in raising my son that caused him to make these choices? I blamed myself, my husband, my son. I worried what people would think, what my parents would think.
I sat on the floor crying on the phone to my mom the day I told her. “Julie,” she told me. “I wish I were there to wrap my arms around you and hug you tight.” Her support made me cry even harder.
The fear of what I might have to do paralyzed me. My husband and I aren’t young; we weren’t ready to raise a baby. How much would be expected of us?
I walked through my days as a zombie refusing to talk about the pregnancy with anyone, fretting over people’s judgement of my family. Well, how I perceived they would judge us…I eventually began recognizing God’s blessings when my friends stood beside me. They supported me, encouraged me, prayed for us. I am thankful for my dear friends. That recognition came after, though…after I turned to God.
In my despair, I had totally shut God out. But let me tell you this…the moment I remembered that I’m not alone, that He is with me, it became okay. I became okay. I lay in bed one night, taking a breath in between sobs, and I remembered to pray. I remembered to listen to God’s answer and to accept His grace, because ladies…He always offers His grace.
I felt peace, and I knew in that moment it would be all right because we had each other; we had love. And God is love. Love is God, right?
When I let God in and accepted His grace for me in this new difficult situation, I felt His peace. I knew that I had to let go of worry and fear. I knew that just as God had forgiven me in a million other instances (those are stories for another time), I must also forgive my son and myself and my husband and the girlfriend. Once I could forgive, then I could extend grace to them just as God extends it to me. I’ve gotta tell you, that’s a good way to live!
We don’t always know how things will work out; we never do. But by finding the blessing in our situation, we found joy.
And just look…look at my joy…
I find God’s grace in this sweet little face. I find it in her laughter, on the smiles on my children’s faces…through our joy we know His grace. Through His grace, we know joy. And this is enough for me. I hope you all understand that it’s enough for you, too.
Trust God. He can’t make His grace any more sufficient than it already is. He has made it so. Embrace it. Get up and believe it. Do that, and you will know it’s true. The Lord says it’s true in the simplest way in 2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace IS (not shall be or may be) sufficient for you.”
Thank you, O God, for your love. Thank you for your most magnificent gift of Grace. Help us to remember what you have spoken to us. As we strive to live for you, help us to gain strength in your sustaining grace as you comfort us. In the trials of life may we rely on the comfort you provide. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Follow-up: While we and our granddaughter’s other grandparents have supported and encouraged our children, they (my son and the baby’s mom) have truly stepped up to their responsibilities and are amazing parents. They both have successfully completed a nursing program, passed their boards, and are licensed practical nurses. My son works full time in a clinic and is back in school full time working towards his bachelor’s degree.
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