Has God ever surprised you with His mercy in a difficult time?
Difficult times come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are the long deserts we have to walk through spiritually, there are the calamities of loss, and then there are the small but insidious moments of disillusionment.
I was an elder in my church, and our session had been attempting to faithfully lead the congregation through a painful pastoral transition. But despite much work and prayer, we failed miserably. The morning after a particularly hard meeting, a friend of mine posted a new version of Rich Mullins’s classic song “Hello Old Friends.” On a gray morning when I felt lost, it seemed the Lord was speaking to me directly through Mullins’s words.
It seems that love blooms out of season, and much joy can blossom from many tears. So, old friends, you must forget what you had to forgive … the old, old story bears repeating …
It was small, nearly insignificant. But to me, it was a rich mercy, just enough to remind me of God’s heart for His church. That tiny song reminded me to surrender to Him, the One who wrote the old, old story.
—John Hendrix, author and illustrator of The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
One of the deep lessons I’ve learned over the years is that God blesses us through His people. I experienced this firsthand in 2009 when I moved to New York City. Upon arrival, I was desperately uncertain, insecure, and anxious about the decision to leave the seminary world for good and focus my attention on serving college students. The Lord was merciful in affirming my decision by sending three students my first semester—Josh, Andrew, and Ben—to befriend me. They made my transition to New York City one of the best things I’ve ever experienced, and it all happened through the power of ordinary friendship.
—Anthony B. Bradley, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, The King’s College, and author of Ending Overcriminalization and Mass Incarceration: Hope From Civil Society
For me, God’s mercy is always surprising. Honestly, I really don’t know how it all works—I don’t know if my answered prayer for wisdom or peace or sleep is God’s mercy, when an undocumented mother’s fervent prayers for reunification with her child seem to go unanswered—but I know that whenever I feel I am close to God’s mercy, I am surprised and delighted.
I feel I experienced it with the birth of my second child. I’d had a traumatic birth and a long, difficult recovery with my son, and I was terrified about experiencing the same with my daughter. I decided to listen to my body in those trimesters and underwent counseling and physical therapy to deal with some of the effects of that first experience. When it came time to deliver Camila, I found that I was fully at peace, relaxed, and surrendered to labor. It felt like mercy to me.”
—Audrey Assad, Award-winning singer/songwriter. Her most recent album is Evergreen.
God showed my family mercy during June 2006, meeting needs we couldn’t when our youngest child, Elias, became gravely ill. He and I were life-flighted down to Ann Arbor while friends and colleagues packed up our cabin. One family caravanned overnight with my family while a colleague I had never before met came to meet me at the hospital with keys to his home.
We were moved into a private room, where the patient in the other bed, a teenage boy, made racist comments about my son. The true grace? Elias was too young to remember what was said. And by the time he recovered, a friend had set up an account at her church to receive donations to help cover our five-figure hospital bills.
—Kathy Khang, speaker and author of Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up
Illustration by Alán Guzmán