Grace Like Sandpaper

September 7, 2011 | 24 comments

What about when life hurts?

Can we call it grace then? When the friend has hurt your feelings? Or when  voices collide like fireworks in the living room? When you hear that bedroom  door, slamming to the raggedness that just happened?

When messy life happens — when the sparks fly — I am blind to grace.

But is it even there? Am I blind to grace? Or is grace just … plain … absent?

Can there really be grace in the middle of a mess?

When the doctor says there’s nothing more he can do.
Or when the spouse walks across the threshold that last time.
Or you get the phone call you always feared ever since you birthed her.

What about grace then? Can we find grace in days that bruise and bleed? How can we turn angst or sorrow upside-down to find grace? How can we find God in the broken and messy parts of our life?

Is it even possible? This is the question I ask God: “Lord, Can we trust You when life falls apart?”

“When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ’s safe arms, true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust.” — Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts (p. 155)

I read Ann’s words, again and again. I want to live these words in the messiest days.

I open my dictionary and find a definition for grace: “Unmerited divine assistance given to humans for regeneration or sanctification.”

So if we believe God is always here, sovereign and omnipresent,
And if we believe that God is divine and holy,
And if we believe that God is good,
(That he wouldn’t turn His back on us when we bruise and bleed,)
Then yes, grace – unmerited divine assistance — is right here.

I think of how my pastor-friend, Dave, has long described grace in this way, too. He says that Christians often try to put grace in a box. We want to believe that grace is delivered one way only: soft and billowy like cotton or sheets drying on the clothesline.

But sometimes, grace hurts. Sometimes, grace is rough, an abrasive like sandpaper, Dave says.

Sandpaper is a finishing tool that can turn an old dresser into a work of art, an antique tractor into something new again. When we rub against “Grace Like Sandpaper” might we be made new, too?

Yes, I think grace is here, even in this mess. I’m asking for eyes to see it.

How about you? How has grace been like sandpaper in your life?

(Photo: Sandpaper grace…)

Submitted in community with Ann, who asks: What does it look like to believe?

by | September 7, 2011 | 24 comments


  1. Nancy

    Here’s what I’m starting to realize about grace: God loves me so much He will use whatever it takes to draw me close to Him. Through Jesus, He used mud and spit to open the eyes of a blind man. Mud, spit, sandpaper, painful wounds–whatever it takes to make me realize just how desperately I need Him.

    • dukeslee

      This is good, Nancy. He uses whatever it takes, whatever it takes. This is helping me see, Nancy. God is using you to help me see. Thank you, friend.

  2. Chris

    A great thing to ask for…eyes to see it! My prayer, too!

    Romans 8:38-39 gives me constant hope, that when I blow my stack (I don’t want to, it just happens once in a while) or when I do something else that grieves God’s heart – fact is that there is nothing I can ever do that will separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!


  3. r.ellott

    Great post…speaks to right where I am…to really live…see..and my actions reflect…All’s Grace…even when it is like sand paper. For me to give the forgiveness…70×7…to walk in grace…just a little chaffing..rubbing of sanpaper right now. Thanks for the great post…

    • dukeslee

      Ann signs her notes like that — All’s Grace. And it’s such an intriguing thought. It’s truth … I know it is. Know it in the deepest part of me, but I’m asking God to give me eyes to see it … day by day.

      And like you mention here, forgiveness (the 70×7 thing) is such a huge part of it, isn’t it? Thank you so much for sharing here.

      God bless you as you find grace in the hardest places … and in the softest ones too.

  4. Lyla Lindquist

    Oh ho, you reveal Pastor Dave’s secrets. I do thank you for that.

    Some days it seems He works that sandpaper over the belt of a Black and Decker DS321 Dragster.

    And yet… Who doesn’t love the feel of freshly sanded wood?

  5. Sandra Heska King

    Oh, Lyla. Freshly sanded wood. Now there’s a fragrance! I have to believe that grace is in the midst of and covering my messes–even those of my own making.

  6. Beth Herring

    i love this post. i am reading a book by Andy Stanley called “the grace of God”. I think you would love it!

  7. Sheila

    Oh, Jennifer, I’ve been undergoing some sanding too, lately. Posted on it today, in fact.

    Thank you for this gift of things to remember when the going is rough.

  8. Linda

    I think, too, about the grace He extends to me Jennifer. Grace when I deserve anger and punishment; grace when I fail in the same way over and over again.
    It is sometimes difficult to see the grace in the suffering, but it is there nonetheless. It is then that we must choose to receive it with trust in who He is.

  9. Leslie @topofthepage

    Hi Jennifer. I’m visiting from Ann’s today. I absolutely love your analogy here about grace and sandpaper. On my blog, I have a series called Grace on a Thursday where either I or guest posters write about what grace means to them. It is such a critical concept for believers to understand and yet I find many just don’t understand what grace means (not that any of us can fully grasp it’s depth and power!). So I seek to unpack it more each week. Anyway, thank you for your insights. I wonder if you’d be willing to guest post with these thoughts sometime. Check out my series and email me if you’d like.

  10. Tammy

    I’m glad that I stopped by for a visit…it was meant to be!
    If it wasn’t for “sandpaper” grace, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Love this post!

    In His Grace~Tammy
    dropped by from Sharing with Lisa

  11. Glynn

    We don’t think of it as grace, but that’s what it often is — that unkind word, that unfair comment, that disapproving look. It can be meant to jolt awake – or simply to remind. It can sting, but so do vaccinations.

  12. Jessica

    I love what Anne Lamott says about grace, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

    Grace settles in this journey with us and we can’t help but be changed.

    I love Him for that.

    • dukeslee

      Ooo… Like that quote, Jessica. The one from Anne Lamott, but also what you say, how grace settles… I like the image of grace settling on the path, on my shoulders, like snowflakes.

  13. mari mayborn

    Oh Jennifer, I just came through a long period of sanding–literal sanding. I spent hours and hours sanding the once varnished windows in a room I’m repainting. Sanding is tedious work, going from coarse grit paper to medium to fine–covering the same areas over and over.

    Isn’t that how sand paper grace works. We wonder why we go through similar things over and over, and wish to move on. But maybe the refining would be too painful or might even destroy us if it was done all at once.

    And yes. Yes, there is grace in the most devastating of times. We live in the favor of the Most High. How wonderful.

  14. Julie

    Oh boy how I love how your not afraid to bring to light what my heart struggles with at times.

    Thank you, dear friend.

  15. Megan Willome

    If grace isn’t in the mess, then what good is it?

  16. elaine @ peace for the journey

    I just don’t know… I wrestle with that phrase, “all is grace.” I do believe that grace is present and available in all of life’s messy messes, but I’m not yet willing to concede that the mess is always grace–a gift from God.

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding “grace” as it is being used here. I’ve been trying to figure it out for months; something tells me it shouldn’t be this hard.

    How thankful I am and have been for the grace of God that has carried me through my many messes over the years. But for that grace, I would have given up a long time ago.

    Good to be here today. Blessings on you.


  17. Jason Stasyszen

    Yeah, that’s a great analogy. It’s not about whether it’s still there, but our perception of it. He really will turn all things to good for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes. The truth of His grace and the grace of His truth are accessible at all times as we trust. Thanks Jennifer.

  18. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    With sand paper, it’s not the easiest process to endure, but the result that’s worth it. Without abrasiveness, we wouldn’t be beautiful for our Master. So true.

  19. floyd

    Great post!
    None of us like to get beat up or bloodied up spiritually. It dawned on me some time back, the things I witnessed in others lives seemed like they were the best things that ever happened to those people. Contrary, I mused my difficult times that never seemed to subside.

    In the end the very things God allowed were just the opposite. The other things that happened to others ended up being the worst things that happened in their lives, by changing their perspective.
    For me the tough times turned out to be the thing that God used to mold my thought process and develop in me the perseverance to run the long race. In short, that sand paper readied me for the trip.

    Great thoughts. Sorry for rambling.

  20. Beth Werner Lee

    My daughter and I have been starting to study and memorize James and I’ve been taken anew with the incredibly high command to consider it pure joy-pure joy!-when we face trials of many kinds. Really? Pure joy? Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may mature and complete… Took pictures today to write a post on perseverance cupcakes!
    Learning to think of trials as pure joy. Starting to think maybe it’s a command that’s even possible!



  1. Colossians 2:2 Saturday « so beloved - [...] “Grace Like Sandpaper” from Getting Down With Jesus….”When It’s Hard to Find Time for God & Prayer” from A…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest