Today we’re sharing an adapted excerpt from Jennifer Rothschild’s book, God Is Just Not Fair, published by Zondervan in 2013. This section comes from chapter seventeen. Order your copy of God Is Just Not Fair and other resources from Jennifer Rothschild at lifeway.com/jenniferrothschild.
A smartly dressed woman paced the stage while explaining stress management to an audience of business professionals. The entire time she spoke, she held a glass of water in her hand like the Statue of Liberty holds up her torch. She continued to speak without even acknowledging the glass of water. Everyone in the audience expected her to eventually ask them, “Half empty or half full?” and explain the importance of a positive attitude. But that’s not what she did. The question she finally asked was this, “How heavy is this glass of water?” The answers the audience gave ranged from eight ounces to twenty ounces.
“How much this water weighs doesn’t actually matter,” she said. “What matters is how long I hold it. If I carry it for a minute, that’s not a problem. No matter how heavy it is, I can handle it. If I hold it for an hour, my arm will start to ache. If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance! In each case, it’s the same weight; but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels.” She paused a moment to let the illustration sink in. “And that’s the way it is with burdens and stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, the burden will feel heavier and heavier. We won’t be able to carry on.”
Carrying a burden is one thing; carrying a burden for a very long time is another, right? Like the glass of water, even a relatively small hardship can wear us down the longer we carry it. And when we are also carrying the weight of someone else’s burden along with our own, it can feel like a supersized glass of solid lead, can’t It?
When we’re struggling with long-term burdens that show no signs of changing, we can take comfort in knowing that God’s grace will never ever change. Charis (khar-ece) is the Greek word used throughout the New Testament for “grace.” In secular usage, charis would have been used to describe a fine wine or a poetic way of speaking. People were said to possess charis when they were gracious or artful. One could win the charis favor of another by having charis —charisma!
Charis also had ethical implications. For example, it was used to express the notion of give and take, or reciprocity, between individuals and community members. Even in its ancient secular use, charis suggests benevolence that shows favor and kindness to someone of a lower rank. Charis, grace, is compassionate. So, when your heart is heavy with burdens, the question of whether or not God cares is answered with one word — grace.
New Testament writers drew on this larger cultural understanding of charis to form our biblical understanding of grace. The apostle Paul shows this in his second letter to the church in Corinth. He wrote, “For you know the grace [charis] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Do you see the give and take in that verse? It is a perfect example of lopsided reciprocity that is beautiful for you and me. You can see how favor, generosity, and kindness all form the tapestry that communicates grace.
Today we typically describe biblical grace as free and unmerited favor. It is undeserved kindness. Grace is the compassionate gift God gives that carries us from our sin, through our sorrow, and into heaven someday. Through God’s grace, he gives us a wealth of resources to bear any burden he allows. So, my friend, if you carry a heavy burden; if God hasn’t yet emptied your cup of suffering or taken it from you, you can trust that he will give you the grace to carry it.
“All God’s blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If He gives converting grace, he will also give comforting grace.”1
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
To hear Jennifer and many of your other favorite Lifeway Women authors teach on grace, join us for the Lifeway Women Simulcast on April 30, 2022 (extended access included with purchase!). All you need is an internet connection. Learn more at lifeway.com/lwsimulcast.
Jennifer is the author of 17 books with combined sales approaching one million units, including the newest video-based Bible study, Take Courage: A Study of Haggai and the best-selling Lessons I Learned in the Dark. In addition to her writing and speaking, Jennifer is an accomplished songwriter and recording artist, with six albums to her credit – including Remember and Walking by Faith: The Music Captured Live, among others.
She has been featured on The Today Show, Dr. Phil, ABC’s Good Morning America, and the Billy Graham Television Special, and on other national TV and radio programs including Hour of Power, Life Today, Family Life Radio, TBN, and others. Her life story and message has been the cover story of numerous national publications including Today’s Christian Woman, Virtue magazine, Becoming Family magazine, HomeLife magazine, and others.
Jennifer is the founder and host of Fresh Grounded Faith Events and the womensministry.net Leadership Library that equips women in ministry to lead well. She resides in Springfield, Missouri with her husband of 31 years, Dr. Philip Rothschild (a professor). They have two sons, Clayton, married to Caroline, and Connor. And her favorite title is Gigi to her three grandsons. Jennifer enjoys visits to theme parks and riding a bicycle built for two. She got a real charge singing the national anthem for the Atlanta Braves and bungee-jumping from seven and a half stories. Jennifer is a voracious reader; she loves classical music, dark chocolate, and the smell of a hazelnut-coffee candle.
1. C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003).