I recently visited two of my dear friends who I hadn’t seen in many months due to COVID-19. As we sat around the breakfast table catching up, they asked me how I had been faring this year. It didn’t take much thought, and I responded, “Fortunately I feel as though I’ve been mostly unaffected.”
Besides the obvious things that have made all of our lives inevitably different, I can honestly take inventory of my life and say I answered truthfully: my writing business, which has always operated out of my home, continued to thrive, I’m able to exercise safely and efficiently in my garage, and all of my loved ones are still just a FaceTime call away.
But I will say, this year has not been without its interpersonal challenges, which is why I’d like to argue for the importance of grace: selflessly pouring our hearts and love into the things and people we care about. I stand firm in my belief that through hardship, we can still know kindness, compassion and love. The choice to give others grace, especially when our options for everything else are so limited, is ultimately ours.
Digging deep for grace
A few months back, I developed a close relationship with someone in my church friend group. As we grew closer over the summer, I found my gratitude for this person growing, thankful that the Lord had brought them into my life. They brought an abundance of refreshing joy, laughter, and companionship amidst uncertainty.
But like any close relationship, expectations can create friction, and more specifically, when expectations aren’t met, one party (or both) can be disappointed. This was my experience exactly: I expected a certain level of communication from this person, and when she didn’t return my texts or calls, I was hurt by her unwillingness to respond, or minimally communicate that she needed space. So in turn, I took a break to reevaluate how I was viewing the friendship and process how I was feeling. Only then did I begin to meditate on the importance of giving grace when it’s hard.
The ultimate example of forgiveness
When I think of forgiveness, I think of the Scripture passage Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” To me, this means that if I’m already forgiven, I have to forgive others. If I don’t forgive someone, God does not have to forgive me.
Ouch. That’s a lot to swallow. But as someone who trusts in Scripture, I recognize that this is the standard to which I am held when it comes to forgiveness.
So, I’ve had to examine my own heart posture many times: Is it as soft as it should be towards others? In what ways can I be made more Christ-like and express that genuine love, the love that transcends everything else, to others? In other words, am I being as compassionate as possible to others, and open to opportunities to spread that love?
So I sat earnestly and steadfastly in prayer, asking God to help me in my place of pain with my friend, pursue forgiveness, and give grace where I had been challenged to do so.
Seeking God’s heart
I believe that God’s mercies are made fresh every day. I also believe that through no amount of my own good works can I earn grace; that’s the tremendous gift. When I really took the time to consider the magnitude of this offering and God’s love for us, I saw the person who had wronged me in a new light. Suddenly, feelings didn’t matter. Grace was my task, and I had to deliver.
The point is that people will inevitably let us down; that’s a reality. But the willingness to step into uncomfortable moments, have a conversation, and understand the heart of the other person (even if it takes time), is always worth it. Leaning on God’s grace, I was strengthened and made better, so that I could genuinely express forgiveness and grace towards my friend. Wherever you are in your present circumstances, I challenge you to uphold the same standard. See the human on the other side, engage with them in a loving way, and proceed with this spirit in mind.