The great 20th century theologian Paul Tillich had many insights into the nature of God and the gospel, but none quite so piercing as his insight into the grace of God. Tillich wrote,
"Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of life breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: 'You are accepted.'"
At first, the Pauline phrases of "old compulsions" and Calvinistic undertones of "disgust for our own being" and "weakness" may turn us off this quote, but the longer one sits with it, and more in touch one becomes with the self, the truer Tillich's insights ring (at least for me). And when truly understood, none of this is about self-hatred or wallowing in one's own sinfulness. Quite the opposite! The focus is grace. It's all about grace. The world is broken. We are broken. Systems and institutions are broken. Yet, grace breaks through all that, and amazingly says, "you are accepted." It's a grace so radical that it actually threatens the religious authorities - those who are the gatekeepers of religious institutions. Grace is free, and despite our brokenness, it says without condition: "you are accepted." It's too much for most people to handle, which is why it's so often rejected.
It's also the type of free gift one cannot accept, yet stand in judgment of others - for any reason whatsoever. If God grace says, "I am accepted," then it also says, "he and she (whoever they may be) are accepted." If our own indifferences, weaknesses, hostilities, and compulsions are covered by God's grace, then so are others'. It takes away any right we think we have to judge.
I've been reading Henri Nouwen's The Inner Voice of Love recently, and there's a quote that seems relevant to me: “It is quite understandable that you are afraid of this place. You have so little knowledge of it. You have caught glimpses of it, you have even been there at times, but for most of your life you have dwelt among your emotions, passions, and feelings and searched in them for inner peace and joy.”
God's grace is found beyond, but not in spite of, our emotions, passions, and feelings. It is a new country, so to speak, and may be so shockingly new, that it takes just resting in it, not analyzing it, for it to become more and more a reality in our lives. Perhaps this is the meaning of the instruction to us, "Cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you."