“I know no sweeter way to heaven,
than through free grace and hard trials together,
and one of these cannot well want another.”
Recently, in correspondence with a friend who has seen grey and unhappy days, I recalled that I had read this Rutherford quote years ago, underlined it, and finally transcribed it into my quote database where it gathered digital dust.
Years ago I had readily agreed with the “free grace” part, but the hard trials struck me as something I certainly did not want. I could imagine wanting other things. Many other things. I could have come up with a different subject to be prioritized in the top two.
But as my eyes scanned the hundreds of quotations under the heading Pain & Suffering, it landed differently. Fifteen years of hard trials has a way of changing your perspective.
I had missed a word. I’d been too focused on the hard trials. I had missed together.
As we start our next 10-week iteration of Neighborhood Groups, it is easy to have insistent and persistent expectations on its ease, comfort, profundity, conversation, friendships, medium, format, and dazzling spectrum of personalities—both in brokenness and brilliance. None of us receive the thing we think we should receive, but I believe that we all receive exactly what God is forming in us. Don’t miss that the very act of togetherness provides what we can never give to ourselves, by ourselves.
To quote one of my friends, Sam McFerrin: “The community that God chooses for me is better than one that I would pick for myself.” Good, good words.
Join the community that God has picked out for you. Neighborhood Groups are a great on-ramp into that deeper community. Perhaps now is the time to jump back into a Neighborhood Group or join one for the very first time.
I like free grace. I’m decidedly wary of trials. But trials with God’s people are definitely better than trials alone.