She was rarely “late.” With each passing day she began to worry more. She and her boyfriend knew better but they were young, just 15 and 16. They frequently met up for sex while his mother was at work. And they didn’t use protection. So, five days after she should’ve started her period, she found herself sitting on the toilet, with a small Tupperware bowl waiting to catch her urine. She had never been to a clinic before and had called to see if they could do a pregnancy test. As she sat there, she prayed. She wasn’t a church-goer. In fact, her parents never spoke of God. Yet she regularly was moved to pray. She didn’t know what it meant to trust God or receive justification through faith in Jesus. She just knew she needed to pray. She had prayed for a lot of things over the years. For her mom to stop hitting her. For her dad to speak to her. For her brother to stop tormenting her. She didn’t know if God was listening but she kept praying.
As she sat there praying for mercy – because that’s what would have to happen – she swore she would change her ways. She made empty promises, begging to not be pregnant. And just as she began to capture a sample, her period started. God had not only granted her mercy but also mercy on her potential child. For had she been pregnant she most assuredly would have aborted it.
That girl was me. I didn’t deserve His mercy. I was living in sin, regularly. I created my own set of rules – a false sense of “righteousness.” I deserved the punishment. I deserved to have to face a difficult choice and live with it for the rest of my life. But He showed mercy. I’ve remembered that day for the past 39 years like it was yesterday. But how many times have I failed to show others that same mercy?
I was recently listening to a podcast by Joyce Meyer. She spoke about not being mediocre. Mediocre is halfway between being a failure and being successful. The work of not being mediocre is constantly seeking knowledge, constantly improving ourselves. So, the other day I set about creating a Christian definitions list. We sit in church, listen to podcasts, read devotionals but how many times do we hear buzz words or theology that we just don’t grasp? Here’s my starting list:
Righteousness: our outward appearance of God’s truth. Our actions and our words. It’s important to note that without the ingredient of God’s truth we create a “false, man-made righteousness.” (2Tim 3:16)
Sanctification: the process by which the Holy Spirit molds us into Jesus’ image (1Thes 4:1)
Justification: when we pronounce our faith in Jesus Christ and we are instantly saved. (Gal 2:16)
Grace: simply put, God’s favor and kindness towards us. And He shows us grace in different ways:
- Salvation Grace: is when our freedom was purchased through Jesus’ blood (Eph 2:8)
- Numerous Grace: God forgives me each time I sin (Rom 6:14)
- Forgiveness Grace: When God helps me to forgive others (James 4:6)
- New Grace: each day I have the opportunity to begin again (Heb 13:25)
- Freedom Grace: I am free to forget about other people’s opinions and just be me (1Cor 15:10)
- Future Grace: God has promised to be with me at all times (Heb 4:16)
Mercy: when we are not given the punishment we deserve. (PS 40:11-13)
When I wrote all this down I received clarity of the amazing work God, through His Holy Spirit, does in each of us. But most of all I thought about mercy. I understood that God forgives us each time we fall into the traps of sin. We all have been in the situation Paul lamented when he wrote the following:
Each and every day we find ourselves sinning – worried about money, hoarding our gifts, being judgmental and unkind to others, unforgiving of our loved ones or even strangers. Gossiping, stealing, or even hating or causing injury to others. There is only one being to have ever walked this earth that didn’t need God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy – Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon wrote in his prayer “Deliver Us From Evil about mercy.
“We come for mercy, great God. It must always be our first request, for we have sinned against a just and holy law of which our consciences approve. We are evil, but Your law is holy and just and good. We have offended knowingly.”Charles Spurgeon
I knew having sex outside of marriage was wrong. I knew having unprotected sex outside of marriage was stupid. And yet I did it time after time. God gifted me with mercy over and over. He also gifted me with mercy when He delivered the right man to me to become my husband. I didn’t deserve him. I was a mess. After 31 years of marriage I still thank God my husband has stuck with me as I erase the ways I learned while outside of God’s justification. And I know now, it’s time for me to pick up my part of the bargain.
I’m grateful that God flipped this admonition. He has done it with so many of us. He has shown us the mercy we didn’t deserve. We need to pass that glorious gift along to others. There are those in our lives that we hope to fail, that we wish ill will, that we hope will “get their just due.” Aren’t we thankful that God doesn’t think the same about us?
For about two years I worked as a substitute in a high school office. I job-shared for a woman who was completing her counseling certification. There were two positions like mine. When the other position was filled with a young woman I was encouraged by her enthusiasm. She was full of ideas and brought a cheery face to the job. And then she started being late every day. At times she wouldn’t even show up. When she did show up, I would find her on Facebook or on personal phone calls. Her failings impacted my job. I became bitter because, hey, I was just a substitute. Why should I have to make up for her issues when she was an actual employee? I found myself driving to work dreading what was to come. I actually prayed she would get hit by a bus so I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore. Yes, I did that.
The turmoil got so bad I considered quitting. But I knew that would leave others, whom I considered friends, in a difficult situation. Three months in, I sat at an intersection on the way to work. It was a long red light. The Holy Spirit descended on me in the car. I had my Perspective Change Moment. What I should have been doing all along was praying for God to intervene positively in her life. I could have left her to do two people’s jobs and/or complain endlessly to the supervisor, but I needed to show mercy and love. So, I prayed every day for the next week that God would resolve the problem. For God to help her. For God to take control. The peace that came over me was amazing!
After that one week she resigned. And a good friend of mine who had been a finalist for the job previously was hired. God is good. God is forgiving. God, thankfully, is merciful. I love this quote by Christopher Columbus about mercy:
I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous presence.
To whom do you need to show mercy? How has God been merciful to you?