Life’s Mistakes Help Us To Understand God’s Mercy

“I said, ‘O Lord, have mercy on me, heal me, for I have sinned against you’.” (Psalms 41:4)

The next time you are surfing the internet, I invite you to visit my website at www.devotions.com. It’s getting around 750,000 hits a year and features every column I’ve ever written – over 1,000 of them.

One of the points I stress to my readers is that no problem is too difficult for the Christian who is willing to reach out in faith and trust Christ. As you already know, I often use personal experiences of my own or others that have been shared with me to examine biblical truths. The stories may change, but the bottom line is always the same: When we stand on God’s promises and apply biblical principles to the problems that everyday living brings, nothing can defeat us.

Several years ago, for example, I learned an unforgettable biblical truth about mercy. It came from an elderly man who thought he was just offering a word of encouragement. Little did he know that God was also using him to help me understand that mercy is all about getting something we don’t deserve.

As we chatted, he confessed that he had been a recovering alcoholic for almost 50 years. I was shocked. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that he would remotely understand the destruction that alcoholism brings. Yet, I saw in his eyes that strange combination of pain and joy that so often frequents the lives of born-again Christians who have been delivered from addictions.

Even though it was in 1950, he recounted his story as if it were yesterday. He put his daughter in the tub for her evening bath. She loved playing in the tub, so it came as no surprise to him for her to ask for a few more minutes of playtime. He agreed she could play longer. He decided to pour himself another drink while he waited. Unfortunately, he lost track of time and dosed off.

When he awoke, he remembered that she was still in the bathtub. He rushed to the bathroom. She was no longer playing. There she lay on her back in the tub – lifeless and under water – except for a small area around her mouth.

He screamed, “O Lord, please let her be living”. Well God obliged and managed to get his attention, too. “After that night”, he told me, “I promised myself that I would never drink again and I’ve kept that promise for 46 years”.

When he walked away, I asked God: “What are you trying to tell me here, Lord”? I finally realized during one of my daily walks what I think God wanted me to understand from that near tragic moment. It was that things don’t always go wrong because his daughter’s life was saved, he was saved, and his life was not ruined from that experience. God used that act of mercy to convince him to quit drinking and change the direction that his life was taking him. That one act of mercy brought him to an understanding of what “joy unspeakable” means.

The Bible is full of stories about how God’s mercy can change us. In fact, the Apostle Paul is perhaps the best example. He was by anyone’s standard as an arrogant and hateful man before he came to know Jesus. However, he changed when he met his Savior on the road to Damascus. If God can change Paul, there’s hope for anyone.

As I was reading from one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, I began to understand the meaning of my friend’s story. “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief”. (1 Timothy 1:13) I realized that my friend, like Paul, was also ignorant and an unbeliever. But, he, too, had been forgiven for the ignorance and poor judgment that he used.

We don’t get what we really deserve. Paul knew it. My friend knows it, and I know it, too. In fact, there isn’t a Christian who hasn’t walked away from the cross who doesn’t have a life-changing story about the mercy of God.

The prophet Daniel was right: “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him”. (Daniel 9:9)

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