When we are suffering it’s so tempting to focus on the pain, because the pain is front and center. It’s right in front of our eyes. Intense. Grievous.
Pain is like a smear of black paint across a painting. At first it’s all we see. But if we look closely, we can begin to see little dabs of color around the edges. Little splashes of mercy shining through the black. And when we begin to examine the canvas diligently, we’ll find hundreds of mercies dotting the landscape of our pain.
Even in the hurricane winds of affliction, mercies cling to us. There are new mercies to see every morning if we look for them or remember them. Mercies like God working all things together for our good. Like our Father giving us comfort and strength. Mercies like our great High Priest praying for us on the throne of grace. And His prayers are louder than any hurricane winds.
In mercy God promises to be with us in the valley of the shadow of death. In mercy He counsels us with His eye upon us. He gives us His Word and promises to infuse us with strength and hope. Glimpses of heavenly sunshine break through the clouds that overshadow us.
There are more mercies. God provides family, friends and Christian brothers and sisters to pray for us and care for us. He gives medication, doctors and nurses. And He gives merciful relief from each day’s suffering – sleep. Very often God still gives us distracting moments of joy and laughter. Moments when we forget about the raging storm.
Years ago I twisted my ankle really badly and had to be on crutches for two months. Now I know that this is absolutely nothing compared to what so many suffer. But I was tempted to self-pity at times, like one morning when I had to crawl and push my coffee across the floor because I couldn’t carry it on crutches. Thinking back I am embarrassed at how easily I slid into self-pity at such a tiny trial.
One day God reminded me of his commands to rejoice always and in everything give thanks. So I decided to try. “Lord, thank you for this sprained ankle.
Thank you that I didn’t have to go to Vietnam and get my legs blown off like many guys. Thank you that I sprained only one ankle instead of both. Thank you that I have a comfortable home to be in. Thank you for the wonderful medical care we have in this nation. Thank you for my wife and kids. Thank you that I’m healthy in every other way. Thank you that I can think, read and speak and see and hear …
God showed me I had thousands of mercies to praise Him for. My salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, adoption into God’s family, etc. The more I praised Him for His mercies in my peewee little trial, the more joy I began to experience.
One day it struck me that only one person received no mercy in His affliction – Jesus.
As He hung on the cross, He received only the unmitigated wrath of God. Jesus had no comfort from or fellowship with His Father. No sense of His Father’s love. For His Father had turned away from Him. Jesus experienced not one drop of relief from God’s wrath, no break in His agony, no letting up of the horrific torture in His soul.
And He did all that so we could experience God’s mercies anew every morning. So if you are suffering today, I don’t minimize your pain.
Some of you are suffering horrific pain and sadness. But I would encourage you, even in your pain, to look for God’s mercies in the midst of it. As much as you can focus on those little dabs of color glistening around the edges of the blackness and glowing in the background. The more you become aware of God’s mercies and praise Him for them, the more joy you will experience.