Grace Immersion

Bonus Day 63

Grace In Disguise

My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. 1 Peter 5:12 [NLT]

Dan and Lynn Wagner are friends of mine who experienced every parents’ nightmare: Both of their children, two beautiful and beloved teenage girls named Mandy and Carrie, were killed by a drunk driver when the family van was struck while traveling home from a Christian concert. Dan and Lynn have astounded our community with their very sincere forgiveness of the woman who struck their vehicle; in fact the three of them, Dan, Lynn, and the woman who killed their daughters, now speak to various groups about the dangers of drunk driving, and about the beauty of grace-driven forgiveness.

Dan wrote me an intriguing email the other day:

People have heaped a good deal of praise on us for forgiving her, and we have felt uncomfortable about that. We recently figured out why: We never really blamed her for the accident… We realized that we were holding God responsible; certainly He had the power to stop it… [But now] we understand a little about God: He is sovereign; it was by God’s love and grace that He chose to allow this, seeing a much bigger picture than we are capable of seeing, the many people He would touch and save through this. We are thankful that there is no bitterness or hatred in our hearts toward Lisa or any other human being; and even, now, toward God… as Gerald Sittser said in A Grace Disguised, “I wonder about how my own experience and loss will someday serve a greater purpose that I do not yet see or understand… Perhaps people suffering catastrophic loss will someday look to our family for hope and inspiration. I do not know. Yet I choose to believe that God is working toward some ultimate purpose, even using my loss to that end.”

Do you agree with Dan? I can tell you that as I’ve shared their story I’ve seen so many lives changed. Just yesterday I got an email from a pastor in Brazil profoundly affected by Dan and Lynn after watching them on our podcast. I’m so glad they were able to choose, eventually, to open their eyes to these hints of a greater purpose, instead of only seeing their own very real pain.

The theology of grace promises you, too, that although you may never see it in this lifetime, God will redeem every tear you cry (See Romans 8:28). In fact, your greatest ministry will come from your greatest pain. That’s why Paul says “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses.” He’s willing to be transparent about his emotions, his frustrations, his checkered past — so people see God’s grace rather than some facade of human strength. Grace means I am saved from sin; but it also means I am brought through life’s trials — and all the way home to heaven — in God’s strength and not my own.

How do you feel about Dan’s email to René? Do you agree or disagree?

Have you seen God bring good out of a catastrophe in your own life? What happened?

Give to God your pain and worries and shame now; ask Him to help you trust that He will, by His grace, work together all things, even these things, for good.