My grandfather committed suicide when I was 8 years old. About 6 weeks prior to his death, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My dad found him in his garage. My grandfather had hung himself after dealing with manic depression his whole life.
That’s when my father started drinking.
Grief Is The Shadow Side Of Love. – N.T. Wright
My Dad was the breadwinner for our family growing up. My mom was a homemaker and took care of my siblings and I. When my grandpa died, my dad was going back to college to get a better job.
To be honest, I didn’t realize how traumatic my grandfather’s death was to my dad. As a child it’s hard to process adult things like death. I was only told he committed suicide. I was never told how to deal with it—how to walk through it—how to grieve it as an 8 year old.
My dad picked up drinking to deal with his father’s death and up until now, I never realized how lonely and devastating it must have been for my dad to endure. To continue to put food on the table, get a better job, and raise his four children while dealing with the loss of his father, must have been a literal hell. Just trying to imagine my own father dying in the same way makes me sick to my stomach. The reality is beyond comprehension.
My dad was a functioning alcoholic, that is, until he wasn’t anymore. The man I remember from early childhood was gone; what replaced him was a man who was distant. Disconnected. Devoid of the life and love of God he used to shower me with every day.
It all came to a head when my father got fired from his job. We cornered him on rehab; initially he refused it. He finally relented, and went into recovery. After he came out, he had what he called “white knuckle” sobriety. He was trying to be sober on his own, not in the Lord’s ability.
He relapsed a few years after rehab, for the sole reason that he just “didn’t care” anymore. But he was trying to do this in his own natural ability.
He knew this time had to be different, and it was. My dad has been sober now for 8 and a half years. Through it all, my dad’s journey has taught me some invaluable lessons about God’s Grace for us, but three specific ones I want to share with you today.
God’s Grace Is Limitless
God’s Grace in my father’s life has no beginning and no end. There is no place my father could run from the overwhelming, bottomless, grace of Jesus Christ. Even in his addiction, there was no limit to what God’s Grace imputes to us. Grace is boundless because it is wrapped up in the person of Jesus, who wraps Himself up in us. You know where God was when my dad relapsed? Right by his side. Because no amount of screw-ups can short-circuit Grace.
Pain says Grace can’t come near, but Grace breaks down the door and rushes to your need.
Scripture tells us,
The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. –Romans 5:20 NASB
God’s Grace abounds all the more. There’s no amount of sinning you can do that Grace won’t expand exponentially past it. We can’t quantify the height, depth, or breadth of Grace. It existed in the heart of God before atoms and molecules, light and dark, before space and time. The fullness and measure in which Grace envelops us is incomprehensible. The law of Grace is an attribute of God that cannot be dissected from his nature. When the injuries are too much to bear, the proximity of Grace crushes the weight of iniquity beneath His heel.
God’s Grace Is Unmerited
We cannot earn Grace. No amount of good works (or consecutive days of sobriety) will ever get us right with God. It is Christ, and Christ alone who became sin for us so that we might be rightly recognized as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High.
A.W. Tozer states in Knowledge Of The Holy that,
Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. It is a self-existent principle inherent in the divine nature and appears to us as a self-caused propensity to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under just disapprobation.
None of us deserve Grace. We have a debt that cannot be repaid. The verdict has been cast, and judgment is required. We are guilty.
Isaiah 64:6 KJV explains that:
All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
Our attempts at morality are nothing to God. They are a pitiful effort to showcase our works as being something of value despite the truth that we are fallen human beings.
In the spirit of childlike faith and wonder, we must submit to the knowledge that nothing good is in us, and we are fully reliant on Jesus who absorbed the totality of sin and death so that we could have abundant life in Him.
God’s justice is never at odds with His grace. He executes his covenant promise in a way that addresses our sin while extending this beautiful favor to us. We should never believe that His Grace nullifies His Justice. Rather, we should see how Grace accomplishes His justice in Jesus Christ.
God’s Grace Is Restorative
While I know that the loss of my grandfather will always be a fixture in my dad’s mind, I’ve also witnessed what Grace has done in restoring the man who my father was. It restored the image of God in Him despite the damage alcohol had left. It took what was lost, despondent, and broken, and renewed the life within.
Alcohol can have lasting effects physically, mentally, and spiritually. It chewed up and spit my dad out, making him believe the lie that he wasn’t worthy to be called a Son of God.
Yet Grace saw him while he was a long way off. Grace ran to my father with compassion, embraced him and kissed him in all his addiction, failures, and sin.
Grace said, lets give him a ring, new robes, and kill the fattened calf to eat. Let’s celebrate because you have come home to us. That you were once lost, but now you are found. He will restore us because He’s always waiting for us to come.
One of the things I treasure most about my dad is seeing His absolute reliance on an infinite God instead of finite man. He tells me that quote every single day. My dad’s story with alcoholism teaches me that Grace is our source. No matter the alienation and discouragement you feel, the fellowship of the Spirit is tangible and available, presently, immediately, and always. Grace is our portion. And it can be yours too.