The past couple weeks have been difficult ones for people I know. Two dear friends are in the process of making decisions that will impact this life and the one to come, and I fear that neither are proceeding with utmost wisdom. Another lost her father. A friend of a friend is in serious danger of losing her newborn and 16-week-early twins. There have been several other tough situations. . .surgeries, emergency room trips, and the like. It is hard to see people I care about struggling, and I know it is harder for those more closely involved. It has driven me, as many of them, to spend more time in prayer and in Scripture seeking, I think, not so much answers (although certainly I have prayed stringently for those as well) as the assurance that God is indeed there and still in control of our (seemingly) feeble attempts at life.
I have also been reading, since New Year's, in the collected works of Flannery O'Connor, whose short stories may best be described as sick and twisted. (I say this with a hint of "tongue in cheek," but it is no stretch of the imagination to consider it accurate.) An article in the reformed magazine Credenda discusses O'Connor's writings and her penchant for the unlovely forms God's grace may take. In short, grace is not always neat and pretty. God's grace in bringing Job to a better understanding of Him was anything but pleasant, as with many others in the Bible. We may argue that Samson's final act was, in effect, his salvation; we cannot argue that it was a beautiful moment. We may legitimately point to Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac as an example of unfailing faith; we cannot presume it was a pleasant experience of God's grace for the grieving father.
Sin is ugly. And, sometimes, the means God chooses to bring us out of sin, further into His glaringly glorious light, are more akin to Gothic images than Renaissance. Your thoughts?