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Grace Under Fire 

I thought I was finished with my latest study about the purifying processes of God, so I closed out my document, saved it, and printed it to be sent out for copying. To the best of my knowledge, the study was completed. As usual, the best of my knowledge was so lacking. God had much more to teach me about His purifying processes. Of all the words I have ever written, the words contained in this addendum have by far been the most difficult to write because one of the purifying fires that God allowed into my life forced me to ask the question, "Is God's grace truly sufficient?"

We looked at II Corinthians 12:9 in the study for Week Six of "As Pure As Gold".  In this passage of Scripture, Paul received his answer from God in response to his request for God to remove the thorn in his flesh that had bothered him for so long. God answered by saying, "My grace is sufficient for you".

God did not respond by promising Paul that He would remove the thorn. He didn't even tell him that if he had enough faith, he could rid himself of the thorn. However, God promised that the grace He had shown toward Paul would be enough to get him through whatever problems arose due to the thorn that He was going to allow to remain in his flesh. God went on to explain that His power would be fully completed in Paul through the weakness he experienced as a result of this problem. This thorn was going to force Paul to depend on God.

I found myself in a situation similar to Paul's. I, too, asked God to remove the problem. Like Paul, I did not receive the answer that I had hoped to receive from God. Instead He gave me a promise. His grace would be sufficient for me as well.

A few months before I began to write the purification study, my precious Daddy was diagnosed with cancer. I began immediately to pray and asked God to give me a promise that I could claim in this situation. God did not promise me that He would heal my daddy. Instead, in a supernatural way, God promised me that He would show mercy to him. I had no idea what that meant at the time.

We were first told that we had cause for great hope because his cancer was normally one that progresses slowly and is easily controlled. I thought that was the fulfillment of His promise to show mercy. Yet, his cancer seemed to rage like a wildfire. Nothing worked to stop its progress. Within a few short weeks, he had suffered complete kidney failure and was placed on dialysis in order to survive.

During that initial time of recuperating from the shock of Daddy's diagnosis, God led me into a full time ministry of teaching, speaking, and writing and I quit my job to do so. I thought that I would have all the time I needed to do what God had called me to do. I knew that the first study He wanted me to write was the study on His purifying processes. I began that work immediately, but was repeatedly called to my parents' home two hours away to be with them as Daddy was hospitalized or to help with taking him to treatments. I considered it a blessing from God that I was no longer working and therefore able to help these two people who had sacrificed so much for me during their lives. But, I questioned God about His leading in the ministry to which I thought He had called me. "Did He really want me to write this study? If so, why was He making it so hard to do?"

God continued to show me that writing this study was His will and so I continued. I had to depend on Him to do the writing and I simply recorded it on paper. I was in no shape physically or mentally to do it myself. My concern and heartbreak over Daddy's deteriorating health demanded most of my focus. I was exhausted and even became physically sick from the sheer stress of coping with Daddy's sickness, complications in my daughter's pregnancy, writing this study, launching a new ministry, and an overwhelming crisis at my church. However, God was so faithful to give me the words He wanted me to write and when I read what I had just typed, I often did not even remember typing the words.

The week before I was to host the teaching conference that would be videotaped to accompany the study's workbook, Daddy took a drastic turn for the worst. My mother did not want me to cancel the conference because she knew how much work had already gone into it. So she told me to keep working. She promised to call me if I needed to come there.

On the Monday afternoon before the weekend conference was to be held, I was working to put the finishing touches on the conference material. Mother called to tell me that Daddy would have a procedure the following morning to determine the cause of his extreme breathing difficulties. I had tried on several occasions to reach Daddy by phone during that week, but he was always out of the room for treatment. If I had been able to hear how weak he sounded, I probably would have canceled the conference and gone there immediately. That Monday evening I reached him and I was terrified at the frail sound of his voice. I decided that I would stay up as late as necessary to complete the work and then go to be with them during the procedure the next morning.

Sometime after midnight that evening, I completed the work and packed my bags. But before I could get on the road the next morning, my brother called to tell me that I needed to hurry. Daddy was being taken to the Intensive Care Unit. We left immediately without completing our packing and hurried to the hospital two hours away. When we arrived, my brother hurriedly told us that Daddy was being put on a ventilator and he whisked us down the hall to the ICU where we able to speak with him for about ninety seconds while they readied him to be sedated. I had no idea that he would be sedated for the rest of his life.

Ninety seconds was all I was given to say everything I had always wanted to say to this man who had meant the world to me. Ninety seconds to tell him how very much I loved him. Only ninety seconds to tell him that he was the best Daddy in the world and that I was the most blessed of all daughters that ever lived. There was just not enough time to say it all and I had only enough time to say, "I love you, Daddy."

In the days ahead, as he lay unconscious and dying, I began to feel cheated. I asked so many questions. "Why hadn't God allowed me to speak to him in the week before he got so sick? If I had known he was so weak I would have come anyway, no matter how much work I had to do."

"Why had God placed a call on my life to write this study and then deny me these last few days with my precious daddy because of my commitment to His call? Why would God allow this to happen at this time? Was he allowing my daddy to be so sick and dying just to make this study better"?

Faithful, loving, awesome God began to answer my questions with His grace, the very minute I asked them. Of course, His purpose in allowing this trial was not to make this study better. However, He foreknew that I would be going through this trial at this time, so He led me to write this study even as I was enduring it. God knows me so well and He knew that I would ask why. He knew that what He taught me through this study would answer so many of my questions. God is so good to me.

I had not been cheated at all. God's grace sufficiently reminded me of all the wonderful moments I had shared with my daddy before he got sick. I didn't have to say all of those things to him at the end. We had said everything we needed to say to each other through our lives. He already knew how very much I loved him. He already knew that I thought he was the best daddy in the world. He already knew that I would not have traded him for any other. He already knew what an incredible impact he had on me. He already knew that I recognized how blessed I was to have them as my parents.

No, I had not been cheated. I had been incredibly blessed and God in His matchless grace gave me evidence of that just when I needed to know it most. I always knew that my parents' marriage was above average, but over the days and even the hours just prior to his death, God gave me a precious treasure. As I witnessed my mother speaking to Daddy, even in his sedated state, God showed me the blessing He had given me in having parents who were totally in love with each other.

Indeed, I had not been cheated. God's grace had acted in wisdom to keep me from going to that hospital ahead of the time He had planned. God knew that my pain would be even greater if I had seen Daddy suffer in that last week. He knew that I am the supreme "fixer" and that if I had seen Daddy suffering, I would have been uselessly tearing that hospital apart trying to find someone who could stop what was His sovereign will. God knew that my tendency to "fix" things might ruin the testimony to God's faithfulness that our family could have, and eventually did have, in that hospital.

God "gracefully" began to speak to me daily through His word and gave me what I would need to make it through that day. On the morning that the doctor came to tell us that there was nothing more he could do and that Daddy would be dying within a few days, I awoke with Psalm 121 on my mind. Without fully realizing why, I kept quoting verse one of that chapter. "I lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence my help cometh. My help cometh from the Lord".

I walked into the ICU waiting room with that verse going through my head repeatedly. That morning, a hospital chaplain's voice echoed through the hospital speaker system and shared a devotional. I never heard a chaplain do another devotional on any morning before or since that day. He read the same verse of Scripture from Psalm 121 that God's sufficient grace had been repeating to me all morning. I knew that God was giving it to me for a reason and as soon as the chaplain finished, I looked up and the doctor was coming into the room to give us the bad news. I immediately looked "unto the hills" and found that the Lord was waiting there with the help I needed.

One morning, God's grace led me to a passage of Scripture that soothed my concerns about my daddy's suffering by showing me a specific part of the eternal reward that would be his. I asked God to supernaturally lead me to the right verse to help me release Daddy to Him. He led me to my favorite book of the Bible, the Book of Haggai. I know that Book forward and backward and I didn't remember any verse that would specifically answer my request. But then I read, Haggai 2:3-9 and God used those verses to show me that the sadness I felt was because I remembered my daddy's body (his earthly house) when it was in its former glory. I remembered it when it was strong and healthy. Now it was tortured with pain and disease. God assured me that the former glory of Daddy's body was nothing to compare with the new "house", the new and perfect body that God was going to give him. His new body would be free of disease. His new body would be immortal.

Through the divine manipulation of God's grace, a particular doctor was on call the final morning of Daddy's life. This doctor was an incredibly strong Christian. He rejoiced with us in the testimony of Daddy's life and the reward that was waiting for him. He quoted Scripture to us that gave us an abundance of new strength when our supply was almost depleted. He prayed with us and for us and his prayer was so powerful you could sense the very presence of God in the room.

God's grace enabled each of us - myself, my brother, my husband, and eventually my mother - to release Daddy to the sovereign will of God and to the eternal reward God had for him in heaven. God's grace enabled us to stand around his bed and watch him as he passed from our arms into the arms of Jesus. If you had told me that I would have been able to witness that precious event and survive it, I would have disagreed with you and told you it was impossible. But God's grace is sufficient.

It was God's grace that prompted me to acknowledge that I couldn't stand to witness such a sight. It was God's grace that taught me to depend on the life of Christ in me to bear the burden for me. It was God's grace that taught me to abandon all dependence on myself and to rest in Him. It was God's grace that divinely set the stage for a scene that was so precious and so sweet, it will forever live in my memory. It was God's grace that wouldn't let me miss that blessing, no matter how much I begged Him to spare me from it.

It became evident to me that the entire purification study was really a study of grace under fire. It is only by God's grace that we are able to survive the processes of purification in our lives. It is only by God's grace that our lives are transformed by them. It is only by God's grace that we can see God more clearly in the midst of them. It was only through God's grace that I was able to survive the trial of my daddy's death and come out of it saying, "God is so good."

Like Job, I can now say, "My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen You" (Job 42:5). Through the years of my life, I have known about God and His ways. But it has been through this and all the other trials of my life that I have been able to say, "I have truly seen God." His grace is even more visible under the light of a purifying fire. His grace is infinitely more than sufficient, even when it's grace under fire.

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