I am in Dallas this evening, and it has been a strange day. While I have felt rather serene and peaceful, those around me are struggling with issues that defy our human understanding. It’s like being in the eye of a hurricane. Peaceful in the center, and complete chaos for miles around. And I tend to run a mile a minute and not much grass grows under my feet. So I am used to the whirlwind of life, but today is one of those special days when I feel close to God and I’m taking life one day at a time. Not trying to control anything – just going with the flow; and that is in stark contrast to what is going on all around me.
Janet and I had a great week-end; Friday evening we had dinner with friends, Saturday we played bridge with our next door neighbors and yesterday we went to the club to go swimming with three of our grandchildren. All in all, a really busy, but satisfying, summer week-end. As I left for Dallas this morning, I hopped in the car and just enjoyed the drive to the airport. I went through security without incident, which is rare for me, and the flight was on time. On the Dallas end, the lady who picks me up each trip for the ride to the office was early, we had a great talk and I arrived at my client’s office – 103 degrees outside – cool, calm and collected. I love it when I have days like this.
But since yesterday afternoon, several things have happened to others that have really disturbed me. It all started with Janet at the pool with the kids. Apparently, Janet moved her arm wrong while trying to swim with the kids and it appears that she may have torn her rotator cuff in her right shoulder. She actually awoke in extreme pain last night – I was really worried about her, as it isn’t often that I have known her to complain, much less wake up from pain. Of course, she is just now recovering from the broken finger she suffered in May, surgery and all, when the dog leash inadvertently tangled around her left ring finger. And now, it’s another case of wait and see to determine the extent of the damage to her shoulder. The doctor has given her a window of two weeks to see if it gets better. Hopefully, God will be merciful and she will recover without further pain or inconvenience – and without another surgery.
And how about our remarkable friend Pat? If you don’t know about her, you can catch up by reading “All Heart” back on March 18th. She is a wonderful lady who has become a dear friend of ours, and we are fond of saying that “Pat Rocks”. Well, she has gone on a six week trip with a dear friend of hers, and ours, and while she was gone, she received news that her husband of 42 years passed way. Without going into detail, the funeral home has screwed up, and wasn’t ready for the protocols that must take place before final plans can be completed. She is understandably upset… And her son was killed in an auto accident last fall – how much can one person take? And as you may already know, Pat has her own physical issues to deal with. What does God’s mercy look like to her?
And as I was sitting down to write this evening, in the club at the Renaissance Hotel where I am staying, I received an email from our nephew’s wife Tracy that her uncle has been diagnosed with a very rare, serious form of cancer that has a rather low survival rate. And he is getting ready to have surgery and then undergo a year of intensive treatment in the hope of beating this horrid disease. She has written asking for prayer, and a seeming miracle, for his survival. Will God be merciful to him, and the family?
I thought about writing on the topic of human plans; and how our plans can change in an instant – because life is so fragile. But instead, I felt compelled to write about mercy – I can’t tell you why, but I have been sitting here, in the midst of a busy room, head down, thinking, and praying, about all of these situations. And I find myself asking God for mercy…. not for me, although that would be nice, but for all these others; Janet, Pat and Tracy.
And in my own broken state, there is nothing else I can do for any of them, except pray – for God’s mercy – and that’s defined as “undeserved grace”. Tonight’s passage may not be of much consolation, but it’s the best I can do. Paul recounts to us, from Romans 9:14-16, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” And that pretty much says it all. Just ask Job….. He went through ordeals as well, and it is hard to understand why he lost all he lost.
I even looked up the verse in the Greek, and the thing that really stood out to me is the last little phrase “but on God’s mercy.” Because in English, the word “but” isn’t strong enough. In the original it reads more like “it has nothing to do with man’s desire or effort – instead, go the opposite direction and realize that it totally, without fail, depends only on God’s mercy.” It is much more emphatic that we think. In other words, God’s mercy is the one and only thing to consider in these situations. Our efforts or desires won’t change anything.
While I wish that we could impact outcomes, my encouragement tonight is to re-affirm that we serve a merciful God. We don’t have all the answers, and many times don’t even know all the questions. But God is faithful. And my prayer is that God will answer the prayers for those mentioned here tonight, as well as their loved ones and all the other unspoken prayer requests that we lift up to Him – and I pray these things in Christ’s holy name. Amen.