I suppose I knew what it was, but I’d never heard the phrase before… restraining grace.
It was in the context of a sermon. I’m paraphrasing here, but our pastor mentioned that though some testimonies of salvation are more dramatic and colourful than others, they are all the same. There is the same joy in heaven over every sinner who repents. He said that some people have a quieter, less eventful path to following Christ; the presence of a ‘restraining grace’.
Not for the first time, I wished I’d had that type of experience. Something that stopped me (or others) making mistakes that affected me negatively. Everyone has the same level of need of God, I believe; but my path left me with baggage and ‘stuff’ to deal with. I have memories I don’t want and experiences that I wish I’d missed.
The phrase has been rolling around in my head since then; restraining grace.
I’ve spent (wasted?) an awful lot of time asking God ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ over the years. I haven’t received many answers, and I probably won’t when I meet God face to face.
Then yesterday I shared something in a meeting. I told the story of how, as a teen, I was quite into tarot cards and ouija boards etc. I was already prone to nightmares, but during that season they were particularly bad. When I became a Christian, they were worse than ever. At that time, someone shared these verses with me from Philippians chapter 4, and encouraged me to put them into practise.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Instead of trying to stay awake as long as I could, so as to avoid nightmares, I made lists of things to think about. Noble things, admirable things, pure things. Eventually I was able to sleep. Over time the nightmares came less and less, and these days they are rare. Although I had one last night, interestingly…
Yesterday I was able to share how I put verses into practise and I testified to God’s promise that His peace would be with me, when I fixed my thoughts on what He said to.
So… I dipped my feet into the edges of the occult. I wish I hadn’t; but it led to me being able to share God’s faithfulness to His own words – a different kind of grace I think. I’m sure I’ve experienced a lot of restraining grace and just don’t realise it. Thankfully, His grace comes in many forms.