Thank God for Grace by Karl Shallowhorn

written by Karl Shallowhorn

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I,
but the grace of God that was with me.”
1 Corinthians 15:10

In our age of uncertainty, there are many who feel that there is no God. After all, if there were any kind of Supreme Being, how could it allow such horrible things to happen all the time. All you have to do is turn on the news (which I’ve been doing less of lately) and there it is, evidence that flies in the face of the faith that those of us, as Christians, profess.

And then there’s the idea of cause and effect, or as some would call it, karma. While I do believe in the scientific principle that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, I don’t think that this is quite the way God works. 

To get more personal, when I consider my life, I can recall countless times when my actions have fallen short of what would be considered “ideally” Christian. As a person in long-term recovery, I will be the first to tell you that my behaviors bely a history of continuous refinement in an attempt to confront the issues I’ve carried for so long. That said, I have made progress, which for me is evidence of a Power greater than myself at work in my life. I haven’t done this all by myself. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, as evidenced by the many people who have served as “angels unaware.”

First of all, my life has gotten better, and not just outwardly speaking. I’ve also gained great insight into myself and as I like to say, ‘what makes me tick.”

Second, and most importantly, I know what it means to experience God’s grace. If God kept score, then I’d probably be in the negative figures. But fortunately, the God of my understanding doesn’t operate this way. If anything, God, through the life and example of Jesus, has really cut me some slack. And for that I’m grateful. Jesus forgives.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I do not equate addiction to sin or immoral behavior (even though it may seem that way). And that is where God’s grace comes in. I believe that addiction is a complicated brain disease with many causes and origins and I believe that this is how God looks at it. 

God recognizes that despite how seemingly horrible one’s actions that are associated with addiction are, God through Jesus, forgives us. 

Mind you, there is a sense of accountability that comes with this knowledge. Even though those of us living with addiction do struggle, it doesn’t give us a “get out of jail free card.” I believe that the consequences we sometimes face are God’s way of getting us to look at ourselves and make the changes necessary to draw closer to God.

Like I said earlier, addiction is very complicated and, in my opinion, most people are somewhere on the addict spectrum. BUT, through God’s benevolence we can recover and find a new way to live. 
Karl Shallowhorn is the Education Program Coordinator at the Community Health Center of Buffalo. Karl is a New York State Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor and also serves on the Board of Directors for the UCC Mental Health Network, the Mental Health Association in New York State, and the Mental Health Association of Erie County. He is also a contributing writer and blogger for BP magazine as well as for The Mighty. Karl is a 30-plus year member of Pilgrim-St. Luke’s-El Nuevo Camino UCC in Buffalo, NY.