Galatians 1:13-15 You know what I was like . . . how I violently persecuted God’s church. . . . But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace.
Karis didn’t believe in accidents. She had such confidence in God’s sovereignty, power, and personal involvement in her life that that she thought there was a reason, a purpose, for everything that happened to her. She was always asking, “What does God want to do with this . . . “ hospitalization, crisis, pain, disappointment, loss, opportunity—you can fill in the blank.
Of course, Karis recognized that she sometimes caused her own suffering, by a choice to eat something she knew would make her sick, for example, and that the “purpose” of her pain in that case was to teach her better discipline. Sometimes she thought her “rebellion” was worth the pain, just to be able to savor a bit of what the rest of the world experienced without consequences. Often, though, it backfired. She wrote near the beginning of her first semester at Notre Dame:
Aug 30, 2001 After dinner I walked over and picked up a cone, filled it with frozen yogurt, and walked home. On the way to Welsh Fam [her dorm] I was asking myself why I had done that. I’m sick, going to be sicker. Why?
Oh, I was just angry, that’s all, angry at my elusive limits, terrified of this life I’ve gotten myself into. They keep on saying you can miss only three classes or you’ll flunk; if you get behind on the homework you’ll never catch up again.
Oh Lord, help me! I’ll never make it—how could I possibly? I have never in my entire life missed less than three classes a semester or gone without dropping behind. I’m in so much pain. But my body is not where the real pain is . . . You know that.
If Karis put herself into this passage from Galatians, she might say, “You know what I was like—how I sometimes did violence to my body, the temple of the Lord. It just shows even more clearly how amazing God’s grace is, that he chose me, even before I was born, to fulfill his purpose of showing his love to the people around me. It’s all about his grace.”
I have to admit I struggle with Karis’s perspective of God’s sovereignty. I know he can bring good out of any given situation. “But God . . . !” Humans can so hurt themselves and each other, though, and the consequences can be so awful, that I sometimes have trouble hanging on to the optimism and trust that seemed natural to Karis. I understand in my gut the temptation to end the suffering by one’s own hand. God’s “marvelous grace” sometimes gets hidden beneath the weight of trouble and sorrow. Karis encourages me to believe that grace does exist, and that it’s worth seeking, like hidden treasure.
“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3