It’s one thing for a Christian to be able to quote Bible verses about God’s love, to articulate clearly the wonders of the gospel, and to proclaim God’s grace for sinners displayed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s another thing entirely for a Christian to actually live out of God’s overflowing kindness as a dearly beloved child.
Moving the gospel from head knowledge to heart acceptance is the subject of Gordon Bals’ new book, Grace from Head to Heart: Experiencing God’s Kindness in a Fallen World. As a counselor for over 25 years, Bals has seen how God’s grace transforms our selves, our relationships with others, and most of all, our relationship with him when we can learn to open up to God and let him minister directly to our hearts when we are hurting. Examining how God’s grace ministers to receptive, hungry, vulnerable, confused, bullied, isolated, exhausted, feeble, and unsettled hearts, Bals exposes the obstacles that hinder grace and gently encourages us to trust our Savior.
Below are five quotes from Grace from Head to Heart to give you a flavor for the richness you will find here. The book would make excellent devotional reading; be forewarned you will want to keep a pen in hand for notes and underlining, and possibly a journal nearby to process in prayer what you learn in these pages. The book would also make a useful discipleship tool for a parent and their teenager, a youth minister and a student, or any mentor-mentee friendship.
Gordon Bals is a guide you can trust to lead you into the kindness of God because he has tasted that kindness for himself. Struggling to hope in a season when he and his wife were enduring infertility, Bals felt led to pray, “Either way, I want to live like You are alive.” The teaching in this important book will help you do just that.
On what is meant by sanctifying grace:
Scores of books and articles and sermons teach us how to try harder to endure difficulty, or how to seek God when He seems distant. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about God’s complete and enduring goodness to us, especially as we go through hardships we don’t handle well and want gone from our life – how he comes after us, helps us, and fights for our heart, despite our hopelessness and fear or our preconditioned determination to take on the fight all by ourselves (p. 5).
On awakening to grace through trials:
I was so disconnected from God’s grace that when any trial, small or large, entered my world, it was proof I needed to behave better, because God’s grace was not for me. Whenever I encountered situations that brought my need for help to the surface, the drama in my mind intensified, pulling me toward the belief that I was alone, and that God didn’t care about me… Nevertheless, God steadfastly and kindly pursued me, and I began to awaken to His grace in trials…. Instead of trials causing me to look for ways to be good enough to prevent future trials, or causing so much shame I couldn’t relate to God face to face, I started instinctively looking and waiting for God’s care and involvement when I experienced affliction (p. 14-15).
On hungering for God instead of hiding from God in trials:
Our faith is strengthened when we endure through inadequacy and receive God’s grace. So we must refute the addiction to finding what we can control to numb our pangs of hunger… staying open to God by trusting that goodness and unfailing love will pursue us all the days of our life (Psalm 23:6) will help us remember that any future good we want is God’s responsibility, not ours. Resting in God’s unseen and ongoing involvement—even though it means staying hungry [for more of Him]—helps us become softer and more welcoming to those we love. That’s why faith pleases God so much. It helps us navigate a fallen world (p. 33).
On the power of lament:
I had no idea how much I’d been forgiven until I lamented. For years I had been reciting how much God loved me, but I hid all my questions and resentments from Him. I never tested the depth and breadth of His love. I needed the courage to lament for His love to move from my head to my heart. Relating to God in a way that seemed disrespectful is one of the most powerful ways I experienced his grace.
Having the integrity to bring exactly what we feel to God – and trusting Him to handle it – opens up the door for His grace to move from our head to our heart (p. 52).
On remembering joy more than avoiding pain:
Joy is the most vulnerable emotion in our heart, and it is welcomed best when we’ve been softened and strengthened through affliction. “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest (Psalm 126:5-6). As we endure through the consequences of living in a fallen world, and we vulnerably welcome and nurture joy, it strengthens our feeble heart. By enduring, we’re saying, “God has not forgotten us,” and our heart is strengthened to build and wait for the coming kingdom. It’s a vulnerable act of courage and defiance in a world under siege (p. 84).