I like how that word rolls off my tongue. But there was time, not too long ago, when I thought freedom wasn’t possible. Even if it was just for a few dark minutes of my life, I truly and actually thought that there was no way out of my anxiety and depression. It was really like being trapped in a cage. Except my walls weren’t metal, they were my feelings and my thoughts. And even when I knew my anxiety could be beaten, I struggled to find victory. I still struggle to find victory. But, my struggle is different now, because I know something that I didn’t know then. I know the way to freedom. I have the key to my cage.
What is this key? It’s a little something called future grace.
What is Future Grace?
Here’s a definition given by Pastor John Piper:
… future grace is God’s power, provision, mercy, and wisdom—everything we need—in order to do what he wants us to do five minutes, five weeks, five months, five years, and five thousand years from now.What Do You Mean By “Future Grace”?
Future grace is a Christian’s assurance that God will give us the strength to do what we need to do when we need to do it.
That’s great and all, but are there actually verses that support this idea of future grace? There are. Let’s look at a few of them.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I but the grace of God that is with me.1 Corinthians 15:10
I love this verse for multiple reasons. One, it clearly depicts one of the most common paradoxes of the Chrstian faith, AKA, our work vs. God’s work. Not only that, but this verse is a strong illustration of future grace. Think about it. Paul acknowledges that he worked, but he is quick to say that his work did not come out of his own strength but through God’s sustaining grace. Another way of saying this is that God’s grace sustained Pual’s working. In other words, God gave Paul the grace to do what he needed to do when he needed to do it. Sound familiar?
Yeah, that’s future grace.
I think John Piper explains it best:
Now if you stop and think about it, that means that minute by minute we’re working. But are we working in our own strength? No, he says, ‘I’m working hard, but it is not I but the grace of God.’ So when is that grace of God coming? It’s coming every moment. It is arriving, as it were, out there in the future.What Do You Mean By “Future Grace”?
Not convinced? Let’s look at another verse.
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’2 Corinthians 12:9
Future grace is God’s power sustaining us moment by moment as we need it. This is exactly what we see in this verse. We are weak, but God promises us that His grace will sustain us (or be sufficient for us) in our weakness. God’s power is holding us up, every second of every day, being made perfect in our weakness.
That’s future grace.
The Key to My Cage
As I mentioned earlier, I’m far more familiar with anxiety than I’d like to be. Simple things, like going to a fun event with friends, throws my mind into endless spirals of worry. I feel trapped. Like I can’t get out. Like no matter what I do, I’ll always be this way. I’ll always be paraylzed by my worry.
And the thing is, I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. As I look around, I see so many people in bondage to their fear, living their lives in a personal torture chamber of worry. Activities and events that “normal” people breeze through without giving it a second thought are paralyzing to those of us who are trapped in our anxiety. All we want is to get out, but so many of us don’t know how.
Maybe this sounds familiar. Maybe, as you are reading this, what I am saying here describes you.
If you are trapped in a cage, let me tell you this. You do not have to be trapped. You do not have to live like this forever. Let me repeat. You do not have to live like this forever. You can be free.
So what about that key? How can understanding future grace set you free?
Let me return that question with a question. (Don’t you love it when people do that?) Why do you worry? What is it that makes you afraid to face a certain situation? What is it that makes me afraid to face a certain situation? What is at the core of all those anxious thoughts you can’t seem to get out of your head?
I know what’s at the core of mine.
It’s that little phrase, “I can’t do this.”
Four words, but it can paralyze you in an instant. I can’t go to that place because I don’t think I can talk to people I’ve never met. I can’t go through another loss like that again. I can’t live another day in chronic pain. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
More often than not, we get worried because we don’t think we can do it– whatever it is.
And we’re right. We can’t.
It’s a good thing that our lives aren’t built around what we can do, isn’t it?
When I’m anxious, I’m forgetting the most important piece of the puzzle. I’m forgetting God. More than that, I’m forgetting God’s promise to sustain me in any and every situation. I’m not trusting in future grace. You see, it’s not really understanding future grace that gives you the key, it’s trusting in it. You can have all the head knowledge and theology you want, but if you don’t act on it, it all goes to waste.
If you were trusting in God’s future grace, then you wouldn’t get anxious for work because you would know that He would give you the strength to fulfill each task as it comes. If you were trusting in God’s future grace, you wouldn’t worry about what to say to those strangers because you’d know that God would help you in that moment to honor Him with your words. If you were trusting in God’s future grace then you would take things one moment at a time, knowing that when tomorrow comes, God will be right there, giving you the strength to bear up second by second.
You can be free. I can be free. We can be free because God has promised us His power to face every second of our lives. That is the key to my cage. That is the key to yours.
Next time you are tempted to worry, whether it’s about something in an hour or a day or a week or a month– stop yourself. Remind yourself that when you face that something, God’s grace will be holding you up. And then, don’t think about that something anymore. Focus on right here, right now. Afterall, you are not facing that something yet. Don’t let your anxiety distract you from glorifying God right where you’re at. And when you do get to that something, He will help you.
I’m still struggling to break free from my cage. It’s a long process, I’ve been fighting it for years. But I have confidence now– because I have the key. I know the way out. All I have to do is put it in the lock.
Free. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
I wrote this blog post because I want you to be free. If you struggle with anxiety, my heart goes out to you. I know what it’s like. I also know what a great comfort resting in God’s future grace can be. And I want, more than anything, for you to experience that comfort too. To aid you in your fight to live a life freed by future grace, I have linked two sermons by John Piper that I found immensely helpful as I studied for this blog post. I hope that they will bring you just as much joy as they have brought me.
Fighting to fit the key into the lock,