Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
The Extravagance of Grace
“…and finally He said to me, ‘My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.’ So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Voice)
I LOVE this version of 2 Corinthians 12:9.
I think most Christ-followers are more familiar with the NIV version, which says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Both are accurate translations. However, the above rendering from The Voice brings a depth and understanding that helps me wrap my head around what God is really saying in this verse about grace.
A few years ago I read, “All is Grace” by Brennan Manning. The book was really good, but I honestly had a hard time reading Brennan’s story. He writes his memoir as one who deeply loved Jesus, proclaiming his grace to the world, but also as one who was a seriously broken alcoholic.
I struggled with how to feel about what I was reading. Everyone is broken, so that wasn’t my problem, but what was it?
In one paragraph I’d read about the profound message of grace that Brennan shared with the world. Then in the next, the depths of his brokenness and the damaged he caused to himself and those who loved him. It left me confounded.
I know that once we decide to follow Jesus we are not perfect and that we still sin; 1 John 1:8 is abundantly clear on this point. I have enough of my own struggles and sin to attest to this fact. However, the depths of Brennan’s brokenness while he engaged in ministry seemed like such a stark contrast to the life he was telling the world was available to them in Christ.
Again, why was I having such a hard time with his story?
Several days after finishing the book, I had the pleasure of spending time with someone I mentor. As we talked, she shared her frustration with a struggle she’s been trying so hard to let God redeem. It’s been a long road and she has come so far, still, God has not removed this “thorn from her flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). And yet, I now see a strength that’s come into her life by acknowledging this weakness.
She wouldn’t call it that, and I’m chuckling in my head as I write about her, because I know she’ll hate those words. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change what I see happening. Once she asked God for help in this area where she is weak, he began to give her a strength, a resilience, and a measure of wisdom that I know wasn’t present before she gave this struggle to him.
His power is being made perfect in her weakness and while she may not be ready to boast about it yet, I will!
As I encouraged my friend in how far she’d come, the dots began to connect in my mind to Brennan’s story. I saw the true nature of grace in a fresh new way.
Brennan’s life was not just a picture of God’s grace, but of its sufficiency! His life was a living testament of one willing to “boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses because he saw Christ’s power rest on him,” which is exactly what I hope my friend will be able to do in time as well.
Our flesh is a powerful thing. I have clung to these words about grace over and over in my own life and encouraged others in this truth as well. Yet when reading Brennan’s story, at first there was a part of me that thought the kind of grace he was receiving was too extravagant. May I never think that way again, ever!
“Lord, forgive me for ever thinking anyone is beyond the extravagant reach or sufficiency of your grace. You give love, mercy, and grace lavishly to all of us so undeservedly and for that may your name forever be praised!”
For Your Reflection…
Why is it so hard for us to extend the concept of grace to those around us? Is there anyone you need to love lavishly and encourage in his or her brokenness?
Are you embracing the sufficiency of God’s grace in your own life? Why or why not?