Mercy. There are various ways to define it – especially when you’re talking about God’s mercy. At its core it’s an aspect of the Love of God. Sometimes we equate it with compassion.
I’ve often defined mercy as God’s love given to those who need it the most. While grace is God’s love given to those who don’t deserve it. Not perfect definitions, but helpful in distinguishing these two aspects of God’s love.
Think of the people on whom Jesus had compassion – the blind, the deaf, the destitute, and the dead. People who were desperate; people who, humanly speaking, need God’s love the most.
The ultimate mercy is when God gave His love to sinners in the person of Jesus (John 3:16). Sinners certainly need God’s love the most.
We often pray for God’s mercy – for God to be merciful to us. What we want is for God to change our circumstances. To make our life better.
But how do we know when our prayer is answered? How do we know when God gives us His mercy?
If you’re like most people you equate the reception of His mercy with a change in your life. Life becomes better because God answered your prayer the way you wanted Him to answer it.
But is that a good barometer of God’s mercy?
What if in His omniscience He knew that what you cried out for, what your heart longed for, would not be good for you in the long run? What if His mercy was NOT to give you what you wanted? What if, in His love, He knew that it might even be harmful to you in some way?
Wouldn’t you prefer that God withheld from you something that you wanted but that He knew would be harmful to you?
Wouldn’t you prefer that God withheld from you something that you wanted but that He didn’t give you because He had something even better for you?
The truth is that you won’t always immediately recognize God’s mercy. Sometimes you’ll see it in hindsight. Sometimes far, far hindsight.
So in the meantime you need to live by faith. Not seeing the evidence but believing in what you cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith believes that God always acts toward you in ways that are merciful, even when life doesn’t go your way. It believes that God is merciful even when He disciplines you (Hebrews 12:5-6). It believes that God is always merciful. That there is never a time that He does not act in mercy (sometimes we draw a dichotomy between God’s wrath and His mercy – as if when God disciplines us He stops being merciful. That would mean that God would have to stop being God).
What if, as Laura Story has reminded us in her song Blessings (you can listen to it here), that God loves you too much to give you the little things you want instead of the greater things He has for you. What if the trials of life are His mercies in disguise?
Don’t judge God’s mercy based on how He responds to your prayer. He will always respond in love. He is always merciful.
Stay in the Word