Signposts: Daily Devotions

Friday, May 30

And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
—1 Peter 5:5

As the story goes, 16th century Anglican cleric John Bradford was walking by a criminal on the way to his execution when he spoke his now famous line, “There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford.” Ironically, Bradford himself would be burned at the stake a few years later, just a month into the reign of Queen Mary.

It’s a worthy sentiment, the understanding that misfortune can strike any one of us. But what does it say of God’s grace? Frequently uttered whenever disaster hits, the statement implies that God has spared us for some reason, but chosen to let someone else’s loved ones die. Problematic as it is for its depiction of God, the expression also reduces grace to the status of a winning lottery ticket: it’s all a matter of chance.

Perhaps it’s nitpicky to dwell on such distinctions, but grace is too lovely a word—and too precious a gift—to be treated so cavalierly. Grace, in reality, is the very substance of our lives. It is God’s generosity in creation, and the mystery that all resides in him.

Only because of this grace was Julian of Norwich able to say that “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” And only because of this grace was Thomas Merton assured that God is indeed “mercy within mercy within mercy.”

O God, may my heart be filled with the grace that creates and sustains all life, the grace that is our beginning and our end.

The Signposts for May are written by Susan Hanson and originally appeared on in September 2004.