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I CAN’T TRUST IN GOD’S GRACE

I CAN’T TRUST IN GOD’S GRACE

----- Original Message ----- From: EU NÃO CONFIO NA GRAÇA To: contato@caiofabio.com Sent: Monday, May 30, 2005 5:49 PM Subject: Preciso acreditar na graça (I need to believe in God’s grace) Dear Pastor Caio Fábio, I don’t have much to say, because I already told you about my crucial doubt: I cannot believe in a grace that is so hugely gracious. It is too much grace; it almost becomes a myth — maybe “the myth of grace” to me. I am a Christian, so why can’t I believe in this grace? I wonder if I’m losing my faith. My disbelief makes me feel excluded from this grace, but I wonder if this can be so, as people say. If possible, please help me! M. A. __________________________________ REPLY: Dear friend and sister, Grace and Peace to you, for the God of all grace believes in you! Read the Gospels and you will notice that the religious people, the Pharisees, the “righteous”, the “saints”, the morally blameless, and those who never left home — like the prodigal son’s elder brother — didn’t believe in grace either. Most people just can’t believe in grace. Since Cain this has been so, and this is why his offering wasn’t approved of and his brother Abel’s was. I said that the God of grace believes in you simply because you exist. Those who exist are the objects of some kind of “God’s faith” — to put it in a human language in order to say the unutterable. If the God of grace did not believe in you, be sure of this: you would not exist. After all, the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world for this simple reason: God believed in his own creation, so, even before creating anything, he made provision for cleansing his creatures from their wrongdoings. How can you not believe in grace, the undeserved favor? What do you pay for your blood, your body cells, the dynamics of your brain, the air you breathe, your heartbeats, your ability to see, hear, feel, like, dislike, believe, disbelieve, love, and having hope for whatever it is? Yes — what do you pay for all of this grace? Since you don’t believe this grace, what can you do? Can you rent an amount of mercy time? Can you buy your own health? Can you purchase spiritual safety? How much does staying whole cost you? What do you think would cost you the simple vital energy you tap into to state, “I can’t believe in this grace”? Yes, tell me: How much does your life cost you? Can you yourself bear the expense? And what do you do about the rain, the wind, the waters, the rivers, the breeze, the drizzle, the seeds, the sun — all of these things that are available to the just and the unjust alike? What do all these graces “cost” you? Do you know why you don’t believe in grace? It’s because you also don’t believe that you are a sinner in your very essence! In the narrative of the Gospels, the ones who didn’t think they needed Jesus — that is, didn’t need grace — were also the ones who didn’t believe they were either sick (in need of a physician) or short of mercy (because they found themselves righteous). They are the ones who think God does nothing but his duty when he blesses them. They regard themselves as faithful, living in such a way that God has no choice but to bless them. These ones also got so mad at grace that they chose to kill The One who was its Incarnation: Jesus, in whom Grace and Truth kissed each other. I myself need all of grace, for I am all-sinful. All I have was given to me; all I am was handed down to me; and all that shelters me was guaranteed to me, but not on personal merit. In fact, your problem is not related to grace, but to love. You don’t know how to receive love. Actually, you don’t know how to receive anything. Most likely, you’re the kind of person who always bargains and lives according to the Give-and-take Law. Instead of talking about your inability to believe in God’s grace, you’d better tell me about how you relate to love and everything else in life that demands trustfulness. Can you trust any kind of love at all? Are you the kind of person who suspects whatever you don’t have to pay for? Are you the kind of person who, in your blindness, thinks it’s too good to be true when someone performs a simple act of generosity towards you? A certain group of people disliked the ways of grace and love, and disliked even more God’s generosity towards the ones who had done nothing to deserve it; so Jesus asked them: “Is your eye evil because I am good?” It’s impossible to believe in Jesus and disbelieve in grace, or to say that we believe in grace but not in Jesus, for it is through Jesus — more than anyone else, any other teachings or any other acts/attitudes — that grace was made concrete on the Earth and in human History. Therefore, if it’s Jesus we mean, it’s grace — graciously free— we mean; and if it’s not Jesus, then only the Law is left, with salvation and reconciliation to God being attained by our own personal merit. And this is totally impossible, since aside from faith in God’s grace, nobody is justified by their own works. Therefore, your problem is not “theological”; it is simply of a psychological nature. So tell me: Do you believe in your father, mother and friends’ love? Do you believe in relationships that are not the result of someone’s desire to take advantage? Do you believe in love for love’s sake? And grace for grace’s sake? Tell me about your life and I will tell you what your problem with grace is, because it is not caused by any spiritual difficulty you might have, but by the deformities in your soul, which has scars and traumas related to all that is love for love’ sake. Have you ever been betrayed by someone you put your trust in? Did your father use to cheat your mother or vice-versa? Has anyone abused your soul? What has the cost been to you for trying to be yourself? How hard are your efforts to simply be yourself? If you honestly answer these questions to me, you’ll soon realize that your problem isn’t related to God and his grace, but to your own inability to believe in all forms of love, and, above all, your own inability to trust in the love from whoever it may be. Are you the kind of person who buys love? I’ll be expecting your reply so that we can get to the matter’s core, which, as I already said, has a psychological nature, and has to do with deep insecurities that lay within your being. In Him, who loves you even when you are unable to trust in Him, Caio ________________________________________ ----- Original Message ----- From: To: contato@caiofabio.com Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 9:52 PM Subject: Ferida aberta (An Open Wound) REPLY: Dear Pastor, I don’t know how to begin. I agree with you about some things and disagree about others. The words you wrote me hit me — with all due respect— as a “rape on my soul”. Some things we hear hurt as if we were in labor. But despite the strange feeling I had, it all was very beneficial too. I don’t agree to your saying that I don’t believe I have a sinful essence. It’s just the other way around: It is exactly because of my sinfulness that I think this grace is excessively gracious. Anyway, I won’t be stuck with this right now. You asked me some questions, and I’m willing to answer them very frankly. I’m going to unveil before you. As for the first question: I think I’m only able to trust in God’s love (for his mercy) and maternal love. And yes, I do suspect things that are for free, although this is so contradictory to me: When I can help someone, I simply help for the sake of helping, and that’s all. But when I am given something, I become suspicious. Regarding fatherly love, the one I had was extremely superficial. I don’t really doubt my father’s love for me, but I wonder if whoever loves would behave as he did. Concerning motherly love, I have no doubt. And I have some friends who love me truly; otherwise they wouldn’t bear me. I also believe in detached relationships. I never mean to take advantage of what people can offer me. I simply like someone, and that’s all. Some of my friends have a lot of money; others have almost none, and that doesn’t matter. Without the complicity of a true friendship, what’s the use of money? Love for the sake of love?! Only if it’s God’s, my mother’s and my 4-year-old daughter’s. Grace for the sake of grace? I don’t know... About my life: Well, it’s quite a long story. I was born in a non-evangelical home, although my grandparents were evangelicals. In spite of not being an evangelical, my mother used to take me to church every Sunday, to participate in Sunday School. I’m the youngest child. My sister is 9 years older than me, and my brother is 10. I witnessed my parents’ fights throughout my childhood. As soon as I heard Dad pulling in his car, I would hide behind the bedroom door and stay there until the brawl was over. Every day I would go to bed at about 3 or 4 a.m., and I had to get up at 6 and get ready for school. Infidelity on my father’s part was always a problem in our home. I saw Mom suffer for virtually a lifetime. My brother and sister were older, so they soon left home — primarily to escape that situation, but also because the difference was big. In the end…I had to stay home and put up with that. My father, who had a lot of money, ended up leading a network of pizza parlors into bankruptcy by running into debt, overspending on women, and all related things you can easily guess. When I was fifteen, I had to start working in order to help my mother and— guess what? — my father too! After losing everything, he decided to stay at home taking things easy — to this day. I had a lot of jobs; I worked as a pizza deliverer, a salesperson, a real estate agent, a telemarketer…in fact, I worked in numerous areas. To cut a long story short, I gave my life over to God during a Carnival retreat of a Baptist Church on February 15, 1993. It was a beautiful experience, whose sensation I can still recall. Time went by, and I met a man who eventually became my husband. However, there is a “story inside the story”: I sinned; I fell — I got pregnant before we got married. So far, “so good”. This is where the subject of this e-mail enters — “An Open Wound” —, because at the same time found out I was pregnant, I also discovered he’d gotten another girl pregnant — a coworker of his at the time. Throughout the 9 months of my pregnancy, I suffered as never before. Just for you to get the picture, I was hospitalized 7 times because of nausea. I would dehydrate. Of course it was all psychological. It had been the most painful time of my life up to that point. The other woman had a tubal pregnancy, and the child was not born. And all along he would say over and over that he’d already made a choice, and he had chosen me — how “kind” of him! The woman called me up daily, even at Varig Airlines, where I worked at that time. Somehow she had managed to get a classified phone number to a certain section. So, think of a very embarrassing situation. I felt like disappearing from the face of the earth. Then my daughter was born. We moved to the 15th floor of a building, where we lived on our own. It was as if I wanted to hide from everybody. I had to take the bull; I wept and cried a lot… As I breastfed my baby I would cry and call myself an idiot. I would look at that little frail face and think, “Fine mother! Your Mom’s a real failure, a total letdown!” Meanwhile, her father was trying to come close. I was alone all through my pregnancy. In fact, I chose it—better alone than in bad company. And so I was until my daughter was eighteen months old. Then, after several tries, her father and I got married, and we’re still together. I could say I forgave him, but, as I said before, I’m unveiling…I don’t really believe I meant to forgive him… We lead a nice life, and I do my best not to bring up the subject again. My daughter is going to turn five next June, and along with her birthday comes the “anniversary” of this sad period of my life. I do like him, but I can’t deny: I no longer trust him at all, and I would have no patience to undergo anything similar to what happened before. Apparently, he is a Christian now. He hasn’t behaved recklessly anymore. I told him that if he ever comes to dislike me, he should let me know right away, because this way I won’t feel so hurt. All this has made me cry so much that I can hardly cry for anything nowadays. In fact, I dammed up my feelings. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it did hurt a lot. It affected my self-esteem, my face, my body, my whole self… Maybe this explains why I’m so cold now. I’m not a heartless person, but very often I prefer concealing the love I feel. When I found myself in that situation [when my husband cheated on me], I recalled what had happened to my mother. That really scared me. At present, my father is still out of a job, but because he wants to; it’s very convenient to him. My mother works in a supermarket. Although they share the same house, they have nothing else in common, and even sleep in different bedrooms. He still has an affair with the other woman, but he won’t leave home because he can’t afford to pay for a rent. Answering the other question you made: No, I don’t think love is something that can be bought! I have to keep smiling all day long, especially at work (I’m a secretary with a university), at the place where I take a course, and at the company I am a trainee (because I am the most popular person at such places). I have a need to smile. It’s said that it’s better to smile than to cry, so I try to exercise it! I believe in God, Caio. But, in view of all I said, I hope you’ll understand why it’s so hard for me to believe in something like this: so much grace, all for free… But I understand your explanation quite well. Anyway, it seems to take grace so long to get to me. All my accomplishments were the result of intense personal struggles…I hope you’ll understand what I mean. Talking to you was so good. From the bottom of my heart I hope we won’t get out of touch, because it’s really good to me. It did help me. The very fact of being free to unveil made me feel better. I need to tell you more, but someone has been calling me for hours, and I need to answer… Ah, I didn’t tell you yet about how I feel when I see myself in the mirror. I can hardly see a woman. It’s as if — after so long — I had not recovered my self-esteem, do you know what I mean? But I’ll talk about this some other time (that is, if I still have this privilege). Affectionately, __________________________________ ----- Original Message ----- From: To: contato@caiofabio.com Sent: Wednesday, June 01, 2005 9:30 PM Subject: Sou eu mais uma vez... (I’m back again...) Dear Caio, Here I am once more. But don’t worry: I’ll wait for your reply and your “conclusion” about my situation, or rather, myself. I had the chance to check out you site. I read a few letters [answered e-mails] and some of the reflections. The one about love was excellent! About the text, I could understand better what you meant about grace. I printed it to keep, and I’m examining it bit by bit so that there are no doubts and questions left. I had forgotten to say I’m 27 years old. May God bless you at all times! I’ll be waiting. Thank you. ______________________________________ REPLY: Dear friend, Grace and Peace! As I told you before, your problem with grace is not of a theological or spiritual nature. But it certainly is of a psychological nature, and originated from the countless traumas that have inflicted many hurts on you. Such hurts have thwarted your existence, especially by preventing you from experiencing God’s love in your own favor and for your own benefit. Your very story is the explanation of your difficulty with grace, and for a simple reason: Depending on grace requires absolute confidence in the Father’s love; in his kind will; in the unconditional nature of his love; in the assuredness that he first loved us. And, above all, depending on grace requires full understanding that, on our own merits, we are totally lost — with no escape or salvation —, and because of this we can do nothing but trust in the Promise of Grace, receive it by faith, and rest in it unhesitatingly. In other words, in order to believe in grace, we first have to believe that as sinful, fallen beings, our own condition is irrecoverable before God — and this awareness is not due to low self-esteem. And, at the same time, for this very reason, we choose to trust fully and only in God’s love, since we will never be able to justify ourselves before God through our own efforts or by our works of righteousness. In Romans 4.4-5 Paul says that when a person works, his or her wages are credited to him or her as a debt, because he or she deserves them. However, when a person doesn’t work and therefore doesn’t deserve any pay, but, by faith, comes to appear before God all the same, as if he or she had a reward to receive, this individual will have in his or her faith in God’s goodness the justice that will justify him or her. The example that the apostle gives is indecent and amoral: Someone who has nothing to present, no works to boast of in his or her own sight; someone who knows he or she is bankrupt and a failure, but even so trusts in the love and the grace of The One whom he or she only calls on by faith. Now this is the faith that justifies a person: A faith that has nothing that goes before it as a basis of personal righteousness, but all the same trusts God as if it deserved to receive all that is expected, despite knowing that nothing is deserved. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” [Ephesians 2.8-9, NIV] In the Gospels, Jesus teaches that many human beings cannot enjoy God’s love as a benefit on a personal level because they are set in and preconditioned by various personal concepts of existence and God — derived from personal traumas and events. This prevents a lot of people from trusting in God due to having unlearned to trust whatever it may be: Love, friendship, authorities, father, mother, family, etc. Our personal views and traumas determine much more of our own conception of God than we can ever imagine. On returning home, the prodigal son accepted forgiveness, welcomed the feast that was given to him, and joined in the dance. And why? Because he trusted in his father’s love. His brother, though, feeling hurt by the other son’s comeback and the father’s hospitable love, was unwilling to take part in the feast and welcome his brother, and started outpouring his own bitterness over never having felt free with his father. Because of this, he expected his father to treat the newcomer as coldly as he himself used to treat his father. Then, his coldness, disaffection, “accounting” legalism, petty worries, and false ideas of importance, are also attributed to the father as a projection; and as the father is not really that, the “elder brother” becomes very indignant. In this way, a personal viewpoint of a psychological nature prevents an individual from welcoming and celebrating grace. The man who received a talent and hid it in the ground didn’t do so because The One who had given it to him was really as he thought or judged of him — a tough, unrelenting, unfair master. But for thinking so, he buried the talent; for judging so, he made his own life unproductive. He couldn’t see the Talent Giver as he actually was; he would only see the projection he took out of himself — resulting from his own insecurities — and directed to the Giver, who looked as petty in the talent receiver’s sight as he knew how petty and small he himself was. In another of Jesus’ stories, the unfaithful manager is a man who believes in love and grace — both his master’s and the ones’ who benefited from his “last-minute” generosity. And so we could go on together on this journey throughout the Gospels, and everywhere I would show you the same pattern: Humans have no way of knowing who God is because their perception is blunt and marked by the traumas and distrusts that we encounter in life. That being the case, only a divine revelation has the power to erase this human image of God and then inculcate God’s true image into a person. Not until then he or she will be able to rest, for now he or she will learn that even the best earthly father is called evil by Jesus, which should broaden hugely to us the meaning of God’s love. If even the very best father is evil, what will we say of the One Father who is All-good? All your other issues of a personal nature, according to your honest, true and unveiled account, become subordinate to your inner change in relation to God. It’s no use trying to work on your self-image or only trying to help you free your soul from your distrust in men — you had enough reasons to have become like this. The essential thing now is that you take a step of faith and abandonment to God’s love. Yes — the moment you surrender by faith to the God who is love, then, as if by miracle, as a result from this reliance, your soul will change, and an alien assurance will pervade you in such a way that everything else will be added to your soul too. And all of this will be a simple, natural outcome of what the grace of God will do in your heart, setting you free from the fears that hinder you from trusting fully in the grace for free. This is the first step. There will be others, but they all should come as consequence of this Trust-based decision. And remember: Trusting in God’s love is like not having worked but coming to him all the same to receive the good wages of life and peace! Now, for you to have such assuredness, it’s vital to know that this is the only way; there is no other at all. Can you surrender to this Trust in that which Jesus did and finished for your sake? If you believe and trust, know that as if by magic a complete change will start inside of you. I know what I’m saying, that’s why I’m absolutely positive about it. I hope you keep in touch. Meanwhile, read the whole website. Yes — all of it, everything on it. An affectionate hug to you! In Him, who we can trust in at all times, for He is faithful, Caio