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Grace Upon Grace Author Q&A

Andy Whisenant | Jun 3rd

Why did you write this book? What inspired you?

When I finished writing All in All several years ago, I knew I wanted to write another devotional book for young women, but I wasn’t sure what it would be. One day a couple of summers ago I was reading John 1, and verse 16—“Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness”—jumped off the page at me. Immediately I thought, That’s it! That’s the book! And I’m going to tell you: the grace of God is some fine inspiration when you’re writing a devotional.

Who do you hope reads this book? What do you hope teens get out of it? Parents?

Well, obviously I’m hoping teenage girls will want to read it (I’m smiling), and if nothing else, I hope the book reminds young women that there’s not one thing they have to do to earn God’s grace. It is a free, unmerited, undeserved gift—and the Lord lavishes it on his children.

What was your inspiration for the title of the book? Unpack the need you’re seeing for teens to not only understand grace, but to experience it.

The verse I mentioned earlier—John 1:16—was my initial inspiration for sure. But as I wrote the book, I was reminded again and again that God reveals his grace to us in every facet of our lives. The easy stuff, the heartbreaking stuff, the mundane stuff—every bit of it teaches us, and every bit of it points us to the unmerited mercy and grace of our Heavenly Father. I think when we can look around the landscape of our lives and identify his grace in action—when we make sure to notice how He constantly makes a way for us when we can’t even see where the road should go, so to speak—we are more likely to practice gratitude and thanksgiving. We are more likely to offer him our praise instead of flailing in a perceived sense of self-sufficiency. We are more likely to trust him in every facet of our lives.

As you work with teens, what unique needs or challenges are they facing that your book helps them think through?

So many teenagers today feel like they’re under enormous pressure. They’re pressured to excel, pressured to be exceptional and pressured to participate in a wide range of activities (it’s almost as if they feel like they have to have a world-class resume’ by the time they’re 16). Many of them internalize this pressure and feel like they have to be perfect—or they feel like they’re failing because they’re not doing enough. Teenage girls are also battling comparison, figuring out dynamics in friendships and learning what it means to live a life of faith (as opposed to learning to speak the language of it). My hope is Grace upon Grace reminds the young women who read it that while the love of Christ compels us to extend grace to one another (and this is so important!), it should also compel us to rest in the grace that he extends to us. He is absolutely their safest place in every single struggle, and his grace will meet them in every heartache and uncertainty.

You talk about how life is hard, but how we have big hope. How does understanding God’s grace help teens walk through the hard in their day-to-day?

One thing I have said to girls over and over again is that in every single situation, the Lord is increasing our compassion and our empathy. We’re all going to face difficult situations, and we’re all going to experience heartache. But God’s grace meets us in the middle of our circumstances. Not a single moment of our lives is in vain. So here’s the thing: the Lord doesn’t just leave us to sit in something painful. If we’re willing, he will teach us, comfort us, and even transform us through the care of other believers, the power of Scripture, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Whether we’re struggling because of something we did, something we didn’t do, or something that someone has done to us, we can be assured that God’s grace will not only help us through that hard thing, but it will also change us for the better.

Grace is also counter to relying on self-sufficiency, good behavior or the pursuit of success and achievements in and of themselves. How would you encourage young women in these areas?

What I know from personal experience is that trying to build a reputation for yourself is ultimately exhausting. It takes an enormous amount of energy to try to appear like everything is perfect and you have it all together. So from that perspective, I would encourage young women to remember that resting in the grace of God—trusting in the grace of God—leaves some room for vulnerability, for relational honesty and for rest. Absolutely pursue the things that make your heart beat faster. Absolutely strive to make a difference with your God-given gifts. You can trust the Lord with the outcome of every bit of that, so your identity doesn’t have to get tangled up in it. And when you know that you know that you are safe and secure in the grace of God—that you are not bound by performance, pretending, or perfection—you are free. I can’t think of anything better.

You talk about the importance of real community. Tell us a bit more about what this can look like for teens and how they can find encouragement and joy in it.

Good community is incredibly helpful in terms of growing in faith and processing the trials and the joys of everyday life. For teenage girls, though, it can be hard to come by, because it’s sometimes difficult to know if your friendships are deep enough to support the amount of trust and care that genuine community requires. So it’s important to remember that you aren’t necessarily looking for a group of 10 inseparable friends who know everyone’s deepest thoughts and dreams. You can enjoy healthy, life-giving community with one other person. With your mom. With a handful of people in your church youth group. With your college-aged Bible study leader and a friend from science class. There’s no specific formula you have to follow, but when Scripture is at the center of that community—when there is a true commitment to “love one another with brotherly affection [and] outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10)—you’ll have an amazing opportunity to deepen relationships, grow in faith, extend grace to each other and fight the good fight together. Isolation can be so tempting, but we are so much better together.