On April 4, 1968, American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated, leaving millions angry and disillusioned. In Indianapolis, a largely African-American crowd had gathered to hear Robert F. Kennedy speak. Many had not yet heard of Dr. King’s death, so Kennedy had to share the tragic news. He appealed for calm by acknowledging not only their pain but his own abiding grief over the murder of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy then quoted a variation of an ancient poem by Aeschylus (526–456 bc):
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
“Wisdom through the awful grace of God” is a remarkable statement. It means that God’s grace fills us with awe and gives us the opportunity to grow in wisdom during life’s most difficult moments.
James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). James says that this wisdom is grown in the soil of hardship (vv. 2-4), for there we not only learn from the wisdom of God, we rest in the grace of God.
Father, in the face of life’s sometimes awful circumstances, may we find Your grace to be a source of awe and wonder. Instruct us in our trials, and carry us in Your arms when we are overwhelmed.
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The darkness of trials only makes God’s grace shine brighter.
The epistle of James was written to a very specific audience—the twelve tribes scattered among the nations (1:1). This scattering refers to the results of the persecution of the early church in first-century Jerusalem. Following the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7) and the execution of James the brother of John (12:1–2), the church became exposed to widespread attack, forcing Jewish followers of Christ to evacuate their homeland in search of safety while taking the message of Jesus with them. This persecution, intended to wipe out the church, instead caused the message of the gospel to spread throughout the world. Bill Crowder