I admittedly haven't considered God's mercy consistently in any deep way until the last year. It's a phrase we hear often in the Christian world.. 'His mercies are new each morning!' (Lamentations 3:23). Praise Him for that, but what does that actually mean? How does and should this profoundly impact the life of the believer?
So what does the word mercy mean? To begin, the word mercy is defined in the dictionary as "compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence". In the Bible, the word mercy is used hundreds of times in different ways, but what does it mean for God to be perfectly merciful, and how do we experience it?
God's mercy is often described as God's withholding of just punishment. Jeremiah describes God's mercy in Lamentations 3:22-23 as never coming to an end. The word used in verse 23 for mercy is synonymous with deep compassion. God's mercy for Israel in these verses is both from deep and unending compassion. This may seem obvious or unimportant, but consider who these mercies are being directed to. The prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations during a time of great grief for Israel. They had fallen to Babylon and received just judgment for their many idolatrous and blasphemous sins against their loving and holy God. The book describes a time of great anguish and despair through poetic form. The main theme of the book is the juxtaposition of God's just judgment and great compassion for His people.
Right in the middle of Israel's deep lament, we find in the middle of chapter three a deep hope rooted in the great faithfulness of God.
"My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him."
In the midst of just judgment, pain, and "darkness without any light" (verse 2), Jeremiah utters these beautiful words to describe the character of our unchanging God. Take notice of the way he describes God's attributes: steadfast love that never ceases, mercies that never come to an end, mercies that are new every morning, great faithfulness, a place of hope, good. Jeremiah spoke of this in relation to God not because they were promised an immediate rescue from their captivity in Babylon but because of the historical faithfulness of God to Israel and the promised Messiah that would one day come to bear the sins of many and make intercession for transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).
Just as God Himself is unchanging and unending, so are His love and mercy towards those that are His. Jeremiah equates these attributes of God as being a place of real hope during real anguish. The same is true for us as believers today.
I've thought about God's mercy much more exhaustively as of late. This is not because I have myself taken the time to research it more extensively than I had before. Instead, the reality of God's mercy, or withholding of just punishment, has become undoubtedly real through my experience of it. First, as I look at the world around me, void of any true hope without Christ, I see God's faithfulness on display to continue to give breath and time to those who do not profess Jesus as Lord and Savior. Additionally, we all, by nature, were children of wrath just like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:3), and yet God displayed His rich mercy in that He took us out of death and made us alive with Christ - by grace we have been saved (Eph 2:5).
I have been given the greatest gift of mercy in Christ who bore the punishment I deserve for the atrocities I have committed against Him and now clothes me in a garment of righteousness. This would be enough, and yet, God continues to show us each uniquely how unending and unchanging His mercy truly is.
Many of my sins have left me despondent and swallowed in shame. As a follower of Christ, this is not an identity I live under anymore, and yet the reality that I am cleansed from all unrighteousness can feel as foreign as the life I once lived apart from Christ. As some of you may know, my story is riddled with disastrous and sinful choices. One of these choices that used to leave me disheartened and in disbelief of my own salvation was my decision to abort my first child. I used to live in an alternate reality that because I had chosen to murder a precious child crafted by our perfect God, my womb would remain empty and my sin would remain useless for God's kingdom. I've gone from neatly shoving this act in the closet as the sin to not talk about, to feeling deeply troubled by the fact I could do such a horrible thing, to the Lord showing me the fullness of His grace and mercy through it.
I dealt with emotional and physical suffering for years as a result of my choice. I had believed lies that I would be an unfit mother, that it was the unforgivable sin, and that because of my choice there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to bear children in the future. Even as I lived in this place for some time, God showed me so gently how merciful He is, how perfect His forgiveness, and how He sees me not as a murderer but as righteous and redeemed through His Son. Before, I would recite Romans 8:28 over and over to my own heart, still barely believing it. I knew His Word was true, but until I experienced the reality of that verse, I can’t say I really trusted God to use suffering or sin for good in the life of the believer. I knew it logically, but my heart had yet to connect truth with reality. Are His mercies really new and unending for sin such as this?
The sin I once thought could never be used by a perfect, holy God has become one of His greatest instruments of displaying His grace, love, and mercy to me, His now beloved daughter. Did God want me to murder my baby? Unequivocally, no, but He does promise that all the things He will use and work for our good and His glory when we are in Christ (Romans 8:28). When I began to help with a local abortion ministry I began to not just read but experience God’s sovereignty in our suffering. Through the weekly prayers and surrendering of my story for Him, I began to experience how His mercy was unending. Even more, when I got pregnant again 5 months ago with my now loving husband, I felt the overwhelming reality of His mercy even in spite of the suffering I've endured because of my sin. In my human mind, this makes absolutely no sense. Why would the Creator of the Universe bless me with another child when I chose to murder the first? While it makes no sense to my finite mind, it makes perfect sense to our merciful God. This reality shows me not just that His mercies are unending, but that He is loving beyond comprehension. Through this, He has given me the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3:18-19). Even if God had never blessed my womb with another child, His mercies would still have been so sweet and good to me. And yet, He continues to show me that He does far abundantly more than we ask or think even in spite of my sin so that He alone gets the glory.
Now, the question that keeps radiating in my heart is this: “If God is merciful and sovereign over the suffering that happens as a result of one of my most horrendous sins, how much more should I trust Him in every other hardship or joyous moment I experience in this vapor of a life? How much more should I live in the reality that His mercies truly are new each morning because I am His in Christ?” Sin is an unlawful act against a holy and perfect God; it is worthy of punishment and wrath, and yet, because my sins are covered in the blood of Christ, He looks at not just my sin but my suffering as well and displays His unfathomable goodness in the midst of it. The just punishment I deserve, He withheld and placed on His own Son. Where else, but you O Lord could we find such mercy?
Maybe your sins don't reflect mine exactly, but God's immeasurable mercy is being extended to you just the same. He takes what seems irredeemable and offers us perfect grace and mercy in His Son. I simply want this small piece of my story to reflect and glorify our Heavenly Father, who, while we were yet sinners rightly under His wrath, sent Christ to die for us to take the punishment that we deserve. That is how His mercies are new each morning. Each day that we wake up and our flesh is in opposition to the Spirit (Galatians 5:17), His mercy is perfect in that we don't receive the punishment we deserve for sinning against a holy God when we are in Christ. Each morning that an unbeliever still has breath is a mercy from the Lord in order so that they might receive salvation through His grace. There is no amount of sin that could outweigh His perfect mercy in Christ.
God is with us through Jesus, by the Spirit, and His mercies are as trustworthy this morning as they were yesterday morning. So let us approach His throne of grace with confidence in Christ, knowing that in our time of need either from our sin or the fallenness of this world, He is faithful to provide mercy and grace for our help (Hebrews 4:16).
Our sins they are many, but His mercy is more.