Mercy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, just a week or so after my previous post, I find myself needing to revisit my thoughts on mercy. Revisit and revise.

The realization struck me last Sunday in church. The week before had been Easter, and it had been a wonderful celebration. I had left feeling full and fortunate and grateful.

But the very next Sunday, as I gazed around at the remnants of the Easter service—lilies, an empty cross, candles—I became aware that in the space of just one week I had lost my focus on the life-changing, earth-shattering, universe-altering fact of God’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. As I pondered, I wondered how long it had actually taken for me to become re-immersed in my own small world with its tiny worries. One day, maybe? Just a few hours? As I reviewed my week I realized that I had lived mostly as if Easter hadn’t happened.

And it was then that the force of God’s mercy finally struck me.

You see, those beautiful things in my last post—sunrise, color, taste, etc.—those are actually gracious gifts from God. Grace is receiving above and beyond what I truly deserve. And the many comforts and joys of this life are just that.

Mercy, on the other hand, is not receiving the wrath that is due me. And standing there one week after Easter, having carelessly tossed aside the sacrifice of the only Son of God—no, not in the big “I reject salvation” way, but in my many small, moment-by-moment choices and attitudes—I finally caught a fleeting taste of the immense mercy of God.

When I am fickle, He is steady. When I am petty He is forgiving. When I am untrue to Him, He remains faithful.

It’s a wonder He puts up with me day after day, and doesn’t simply obliterate me where I stand, in all my self-centered foolishness and pride. I would certainly deserve it.

And that is the mercy that is new every morning: the fact that I am around to see another dawn. That I am given breath and life to search, grope, screw up, stumble, and draw nearer to Him one more day.

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Mourning and Morning

Apr24
During this recent season of Lent we did a series on lament at church. Fittingly, we looked at the book of Lamentations as part of our study.

The first thing that struck me was that, out of five mournful chapters, the most familiar verses to me were the few hopeful ones in chapter three. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!”

This tells me that as a church, as a culture, we are incredibly uncomfortable with sorrow, true lament, and transparent grief. The rest of the book of Lamentations is a beautiful expression of human brokenness. As I listened to it being read, tears often came to my eyes because it spoke aloud the silent sorrows hidden in my own heart.

The truth is that we live in a fallen, broken place full of fallen, broken people. There is much wrong with the world, beginning with our own sin-inclined souls. If we saw reality with God’s eyes, we would find much to grieve about—from the pain and suffering all around us, to the evil that so mars our best human efforts and robs us of relationship with Him.

What do we do with all this heaviness and sighing? At first I thought that the only hope was to look far forward to the end of the story when God sets all things right. To the day when sin and death are abolished and we are made new, complete, and perfect.

But then what of the present? Do we simply muddle through? Grit our teeth, bear it the best we can, and wish it away as we dream of our glorious future? If so, what’s the point?

Again Lamentations provided the answer. In the midst of that long litany of tears and terrors, it is as if the author—for one very brief moment—shifted his focus. Instead of drowning in despair, he struggled to the surface to suck in a few gasps of hope, before diving down again.

But where and how did he find hope? What in his circumstances caused him to speak of God’s love and faithfulness? Things seemed to get worse day after day, with doom and destruction a certainty—where in the world was he finding a fresh supply of mercy every morning?

And then I wondered: what if the mercy is the morning? Just the simple fact that the sun came up. In truth, it didn’t have to. In truth, it is God who pulled it off. And the fact that it happens every day should make it no less miraculous. How faithful He is!

I began to think of other things that didn’t have to be. Why do we see color? We could be perfectly functional in a world of grays. And what about taste buds? Hunger would drive us to find food. Eating didn’t have to be a delightfully pleasurable experience full of flavor and variety. But it is.

How lavishly extravagant of God! How good He is to us! Once you stop to think of it, the list of completely unnecessary blessings is seemingly endless. Flowers, music, silk, chocolate…

So, yes. Grieve, mourn, weep. There are so many reasons—in our own lives, the lives of those around us, and in the world as a whole. Allow yourself to feel them deeply, because in truth, God’s heart is moved with each and every one.

But as you get up each morning, sip your coffee, and take in the gentle hues of yet another sunrise, don’t forget to treasure the many, frivolous gifts that God pours out on us daily. Savor each one. Let tears of sorrow and joy mingle with each other. Because sweetness is all the more distinct when contrasted with bitterness.

Question: What is one of your favorite frivolous blessings?