`If God's Willing and the Creeks Don't Rise'

THERE is a certain grace in the way a relative uses that phrase. It's positive, not doubtful. She sees God's willingness as a constant in her life. There come times in our lives when something that may at the moment be inexplicable carries us through the hurt or confusion that we feel. This sometimes inexplicable thing is grace.

Christ Jesus' followers must have arrived at such a time as they watched their Master being taken down from the cross. Before that day, the demonstrations of God's power and grace in countless healings must have given them confidence that Jesus could overcome anything. But it certainly didn't look like that on that day at Golgotha. How could they have ever really known -- without doubt -- that the Master would indeed overcome the violence of the attack on him?

Our usual expectations operate within a very narrow range. Outside this limited range, human reason and hope falter. It's grace that holds us up then. Grace is essential. In the New Testament, Paul is described as speaking of himself as ``less than the least of all saints.''1 Yet, even so, he was sure that the grace of God extended even to him, and he relied on it greatly.

Divine grace can open our eyes to evil that would injure, and it can enable us to be persuaded of the inevitable victory of good over evil. The double effect of grace is one of the lessons of Jesus' parable of the prodigal son.2

The prodigal and his older brother were both greatly loved by their father. Whatever either brother went through, the father's love -- the grace -- never stopped.

It's often only when loss or hurt, or a severe threat of possible loss, loosens our grip a bit on preconceived notions and human will, that we begin to understand real grace. When adversity comes, God's grace can shine even more brightly.

Referring to adversity, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy3 asks the question ``Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank?'' Science and Health goes on: ``Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth.... Thus He teaches mortals to lay down their fleshliness and gain spirituality.''4

Doesn't this closely parallel the prodigal son's condition? And it must also describe something of what the older son felt. The crucial thing is that the father was there for both of them. That's grace! Coming to realize this is a homecoming that is not to be denied us; it has the capacity to make all things new. Christ Jesus' life and the divine grace that it reveals are proofs of man's unbreakable bond with God. Grace enables us to see this permanent union. This is what Jesus was saying over and over in many ways. It was why he could promise, ``Lo, I am with you alway.''5

Divine grace sustained Jesus' life. For us today, the grace remains.

1Ephesians 3:8. 2See Luke 15:11-32. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health, p. 266. 5Matthew 28:20.

This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the July 10 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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