If I were given the choice between learning the easy way and the hard way, I would always, always pick the easy way. Give it to me in a book, or better yet, a chapter. Give it to me straight and simple. Let me pick out a quote and write it on a post-it note for my bulletin board. That’s how I like to learn.

I don’t like to learn the messy way. The way that requires making mistakes and being wrong. Because that hurts. Because I can’t control those lessons. Can’t package them in a way that hides the fact that they are actually unfinished and raw and ugly.

Lately I’ve realized that my prayers for grace have turned into thinly veiled prayers for an easier life. I pray that the kids I work with will behave, instead of asking for the strength to love them when they don’t. I ask for God to send people into my life that will make me feel accepted and fulfilled and happy, instead of praying that I will be the one who makes other people feel accepted and loved and valued. I pray for peace, for safety, for happiness, instead of that God’s will would be done.

Because I know that praying for that would invite a struggle, which is precisely what I most want to avoid.

But a grace that doesn’t include a fight is not real grace. Grace doesn’t avoid the messy, frustrating parts of life. Grace isn’t the peaceful moments when everything is going right. Grace is the moment in the middle of the struggle, when we see that we have lost control of the situation and maybe ourselves, and God gives just enough strength to get us through. And that moment of clarity that reveals to us just who we are and Who is in control, that is grace.

I recently taught a Sunday school lesson on King Asa, a man who had seen God do miracles in his life. Who had won battles against insurmountable odds simply because he believed that God was for him. And yet when was was older and more foolish, he abandoned that faith for a simple alliance with a human king. And he lost everything. Because he failed to see that God wanted to strengthen him. But He asked Asa to believe fully in Him, without a backup plan.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

We were never promised easy lives. We were warned that life would be filled with sorrow and pain and hard choices. But in the midst of the frustration and anxiety, we have a God who searches across the billions of people inhabiting this planet for one person who will choose Him over the tantalizing lie of an easy life. And when He finds you, He will be all the strength you need.

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