Our former pastor’s wife once said in Sunday School, “Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Mercy is when God does not give us what we do deserve.” Many times over the years, I have thought about those words. We all have so many blessings that are due purely to the Grace of God. By the same token, the Lord has truly been merciful with us way more often than we deserve. It also makes me think of the things that we don’t really understand that we all go through. There was a book written a few years ago that was titled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” I didn’t read it, but the title has always stuck with me. We all know “good people” who are or have endured awful trials. We pray for them, and hope for God’s purpose to be worked out and for Him to deliver them and restore them. Our own family has had an issue that we have prayed over for several years – the Lord has been faithful to us and one day we will be delivered in accordance with His perfect will whatever that may be. I can say that in complete confidence because “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says, “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” Paul further explains to the Corinthians that he asked the Lord three times to remove it from him. The Lord replied to him (2 Corinthians 12:9), “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes that he will gladly glory in his infirmities that the power of Christ will rest upon him. I won’t venture a guess as to what this “thorn” was, there is much debate over that. For the purposes of this blog post, knowing specifically what it was doesn’t matter. There is enough in Scripture about it for us to know two things: It was a torment to Paul and he wanted it gone. Whether it was a besetting sin, a physical or mental affliction or the infiltration of false teachers in the church – it caused Paul enough anguish to beseech the Lord to remove it. Paul, however, decided to accept it and use it to the glory of the Lord.
Also, James the brother of the Lord Jesus, tells us in James 1:2 to “Count it all joy” when we fall into different trials and temptations. He says that these trials of our faith work in us to strengthen our patience. Further, it causes us to seek the wisdom of the Lord in earnest. To think that James started his letter with these words lets us know that his “brethren” were facing hard times and diverse temptations.
Of course, Job was a man who exhibited a huge degree of faith throughout his suffering, though he was full of questions about why. We all know that he had been a faithful and righteous man and though we know, because it is recorded in Scripture what was going on, he didn’t have a clue why tragedy was befalling him in epic proportions. His friends and his wife were condemning him. They all felt that he had some sin – maybe a hidden sin that he knew about and just wasn’t repenting of that was causing the chastisement of the Lord. His wife even suggested that he curse God and die – to escape his misery. Boy, how depressing to have your own spouse make a suggestion like that. Job was really on his own, which is most often when the Lord is sought the hardest. Some of my favorite passages about the sovereignty of God are recorded in Job. Some of the Lord’s answers to Job must have been hard for Job to hear, yet they were, of course, perfect. We do know that the Lord totally and completely restored Job. We know that Job was given a glimpse of the Lord Jesus. I think often, how wonderful to recognize the blessing that Job was to never know about on this earth. You see, his story has led to hope for many believers over the years. Despite his suffering and tragedy, there is a passage where he exclaims:
What a heart-rending plea! What a marvelous display of faith! Yes, the Lord saw fit to preserve his story, so that many who are trudging through hardships of unimaginable proportions, can draw strength from his steadfast faith in his and our God. Likewise, those of us who have endured hard times that have strengthened our faith and our patience and deepened our reliance on the Lord, are duty bound to share those blessings of grace and mercy. We never know but what our own testimony of the wondrous works of God in our lives may help a lost soul come to the Lord Jesus, or help a fellow believer to rely more fully on the Lord to persevere in their trials. Believer, have no doubt: We will be delivered. We will see God in our flesh and on this earth for ourselves. None of these various trials and tribulations will cause us tears when we all get to heaven and when He sets up His Kingdom on the earth. We will just be so thankful that we trusted in Him, and that we relied upon His goodness and His mercy and His grace.
Mercy there was great and Grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened heart found liberty