Lately there have been a lot of changes going on in my life, motherhood being a big one. But there is something super big happening in less than month (stay posted for a HUGE announcement), which has had a rippling effect on a lot of other things in my life. My first reaction to this huge change was excitement, which then turned to anxiety, which is now complete doubt and almost anger. Because of all of these emotions I’ve started to almost question God’s hand in my life and wonder the reason for this big change in my life. I think it’s safe to say that a good chunk of humans come to believe that “everything happens for a reason,” and I’m definitely one of those humans. However, I think we do need to acknowledge that if we believe things happen for a reason, then that must mean that someone, other than ourself, is responsible for that reason. That someone must somehow know things that we don’t understand and is therefore making things happen in our lives to perhaps improve them or to help us grow in certain ways. Now who would have this all knowing power and ability to make things change and happen in our lives? I can only think of one person.
Most of us always end up acknowledging God as the reason for the changes in our life. Although this can be a good thing when something really awesome is happening in our life, for example, meeting a future spouse, it can also become a bad thing when it turns to a blame game. An example of this would be a death in the family and suddenly turning on God and blaming him for taking away that family member. It’s like we either see God as our gift giver or our punisher. He must be responsible for everything since He knows and understands everything, right? Maybe. But last night I read something that helped me to look at the changes in my life in different light and perspective and hopefully it can help you too.
In Doctrine & Covenants 93, John is testifying of Christ’s life, and Christ is speaking about his character and how we can become like him, which is becoming like God. There are two particular verses that struck a chord with me. They read:
12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace.
20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.
From these two verse we can a few things, firstly that fulness comes grace for grace. From verse 20 I’m thinking that fulness means becoming like God, being perfect, overcoming all of our weaknesses etc. Secondly, Christ didn’t have a fulness at first, he too had to receive grace for grace. If Christ had to go through a process of receiving things grace for grace, than I’m guessing we must go through that process too.
The Meaning of Grace
So what does that phrase even mean then? Grace for grace. If that is the process that we are going through in our lives to becoming whole and full, I think it’s pretty important that we understand what grace means. In the Bible Dictionary grace is defined as a gift from God given through Jesus Christ. It is an enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. The grace of God helps us every day to do good works that we would otherwise be unable to do. Those specific words used were all pointing to a gift or opportunity that God gives us to be able to become a better person. So if we put everything together that we’ve learned so far we have learned that:
- God has a fulness.
- Christ also has a fulness through God and wants to offer us a fulness through Him.
- We gain a fulness by receiving grace for grace.
- Grace is a gift of enabling power so that we can change.
- God gives us gifts to provide opportunities for us to change and become more full.
Looking at everything in this way, I have started to see that every single change in my life should be looked as as a grace from God. And as we have learned above, grace cannot be a negative or bad thing since it is a gift from God right? So even things in my life that I thought were punishments from God need to be looked at differently because God doesn’t punish me, he gifts me.
A Change in Perspective
Realizing this has helped me to start reflecting on my life to truly see the grace for grace that I have received thus far. Some of the things that I used to view as negative have somehow shifted to being seen as a grace. Like the time when I was 17 years old and was told that I had a heart defect that had been with me since I was born and I needed immediate open-heart surgery. I had always thought that was a scary and somewhat negative experience in my life. I probably wouldn’t have every seen it as a grace in my life.But looking at it now I see the grace in that experience. After the surgery I was completely dependent on other people to move me, shower me, feed me etc.. Through that dependence I came to understand just how loving and selfless the people around me were. My heart was changed seeing the compassion that others felt for me, and I can see now that I grew into a better person from that experience. I have compassion and empathy for anyone that is going through major health challenges. I understand pain in a way that other people might not understand.I am grateful for my life in a way that I wasn’t before. I realized that time goes quickly and life can end in a matter of seconds. I realized that life cannot be wasted and that the only things that truly matter in life are the relationships you have built with other people. All of these things that I have gained from the experience are truly a grace or gift from God.
Now, I’m not saying that everything bad in our life is secretly a gift from God. Honestly I believe that some things truly just happen to us because we live in a fallen and imperfect world. But what I am saying is that ANYTHING bad that happens to us can turn into a grace from God, if we let it. Again, some things that happen to us are direct gifts from God, but sometimes things happen to us that God didn’t give to us, but we can still allow Him to help turn the experience into a grace. For example, a few years back I had a cousin that I was really close to, take his own life. His death was a really hard time for me and my family. I felt so heartbroken and unable to heal from the gaping hole it left in our family. I do not believe that it was God that took him away from us, it was obviously his choice to take his own life. But what I do believe is that God took that experience and turned it into a grace in my life. He took my broken heart and helped me to turn outward to others that were suffering from loss in their life. I gained a stronger faith in God because I hoped more than anything that I would see my cousin again. I saw my relationships with my family as sacred and fragile and have tried to treat them with more urgency. Graces happened because of that experience.
Looking to the Savior’s life we see the same pattern. It wasn’t necessarily a grace that he was spit upon, blindfolded, slapped upon the face, scourged with a whip, even crucified. But his redemptive power made it a grace for not only himself, being resurrected and perfected, but for all mankind and that redemptive power can reach all of mankind.
It wasn’t a grace for Joseph Smith when he was dragged from his home by a mob, tarred and feathered, poisoned, beaten. It wasn’t a grace when we was taken from his family, thrown into Liberty jail. But the Saviors grace made that experience a grace and shaped his character. From that experience we gain some of the most precious scripture in modern revelation in sections 121-123 in the Doctrine and Covenants, which is therefore a grace for all of us.
Changes to Come
I think another really important thing to remember about grace is that we almost always refer to something as a “grace” in our lives when we have been so desperate for help from God or our life situation has gotten super hard and we finally receive relief. The aspect of grace is important to remember because without those desperate times we wouldn’t recognize grace for what it truly is. The hard times in our lives are equally important, if not more important than the good times in our lives. Those hard times, those hard changes, force us to look to God for help. They force us to recognize that there are things happening that we cannot control and it is only through God that we can learn to see the good and change for the better because of them. Change or trial or whatever you want to call it, goes hand in hand with grace. Something that is hard is really just something that is out of our control and it is in those moments that we need grace from God, and it is through those moments that we receive grace from God
Maybe that’s what is meant when the Savior invites us to take up our cross and follow Him. Maybe that’s what is mean when He invites us to leave our nets and follow Him so he can make us something better. He will make us glorious beings. He will make us whole. He is grace.
Looking now to my current situation and the changes that I am facing, I am trying to see them as a grace from God. I am trying to embrace them humbly and gratefully. I will admit that I haven’t been doing the best job. I have felt anger and frustration at the things that I have to give up. I am feeling stressed and exhausted. I am second guessing everything and am not wanting to go through with the changes. But at the end of the day I know that this big change is a grace from God and will become a grace in my life. I know that the Savior is trying to help me grow and help me become a more glorious being. I know that even though this is going to be super hard, grace will help me through it, for this is the whole point and purpose of life. For didn’t the Savior say that it was life eternal to know God and to know Jesus Christ? (John 17:3) We cannot come to know them without going through our “grace for grace” experiences. This change in my life is a beautiful and wonderful grace in my life and I am striving to see it as such.
Photography Credit: Rachel Benson