Amazing Grace: week 2, verse 2

“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.”

         John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, had a rough early life.  He was raised for seven years by a mother who was part of a “nonconformist tradition.”  He was in boarding school for two years following her death and then went to live with his father and step-mother.  By age 11 he went to sea with his father. When his father retired, Newton refused to work in a sugarcane plantation, prefering the sea.  By 18 he was pressed into the Royal Navy and publicly flogged 96 times infront of the whole ship and humiliated.  He later transferred to a ship headed to W. Africa and was enslaved in the Ivory Coast.  He was rescued but it is no surprise he had become a toughened person, a diamond in the rough, very rough.  Most of us would not change our lives for his story.

         Newton opens his second verse thanking God for the hardships that drove him to cry out for mercy from a God he had only heard about.  He received grace.  His ship hopelessly tossed in a storm, was saved.  He sees the mercy that he received as grace but he also sees the hardships and trials that led him to cry out as grace.  Perhaps without the struggles, he would never have sought God.  He challenges us to see our trials as grace as well as the gift of faith.  The epistle of James also challenges us to “count it all joy my brothers whenever you face trials.”

         2 Corinthians 2:8 tells us about Jesus, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”  I suspect that most of us find it difficult to see hard times as blessings.  My husband has Parkinsons, Dementia and Post Polio and it does challenge my faith.  Newton frames his story by saying “grace” taught him to fear and “grace” relieved those fears.

         Lord, help me to see you in the hard times, drawing me to you.  May I cry out to you and not just cry in self pity.  The cross of Easter tells me that you understand pain and there is life after death.  Help me to remember.  Thank you.

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