Mercy and Grace

Angry

When was the last time you were angry? Do Christians get angry?

I remember feeling angry when a co-worker, for whom I’d done a professional favor, failed to offer me the same courtesy when she later had opportunity to do so.

Years earlier I had used my influence to ensure she received strong consideration for a position for which she was applying. She accepted the position then began ignoring my phone calls.

I felt used and quite angry. I nursed those feelings until confronted by the Holy Spirit.

“What are you owed?” the Spirit of God asked. Then He led me to Jonah 4:4 where God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah was sent to preach repentance to a city known for its wickedness. That city was Nineveh, and Ninevites were also enemies of Israel. Jonah found the order intolerable and ran in the opposite direction until God used circumstances to teach him obedience.

Eventually Jonah returned to Nineveh and preached of a coming destruction. The Ninevites believed, repented and God had compassion and did not destroy the city.

Instead of being thrilled by their repentance, Jonah was angry with God. That’s where we find the question “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Like Jonah, I walked away from the question. I believed my anger was justified. After all, I had invested time and effort into her career. She used my kindness and then failed to offer assistance when she was able to help me.

I deserved to be treated better. The situation was definitely unfair.

That’s when the Spirit spoke grace to my heart. I realized that I was owed nothing because I had been given everything. All I had, including opportunities to bless others, was a gift. Nothing had been earned. I was a debtor to grace.

Yes, my pride had been hurt and I was focusing on myself. My anger emanated from selfishness.

“What did I have that I had not received?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) And if I received it, why was I angry?

The question re-echoed in my spirit. “Is it right for you to be angry?”

I realized that I had benefitted from grace. All I needed God, not my actions or my co-workers, would provide. Finally my anger dissolved in a torrent of thanks and praise.

To God be the glory. Amen!

Question for Discussion

  • What do we owe each other as human beings?

The storm is passing over

Lightning

I love the book of Psalm.  It was the book my Mom used to teach me how to read.  She would iron while I sat on the floor and read from the Bible that was placed on my lap.  I used to struggle through each assigned chapter systematically converting phonemes into words.  This was our weekly routine.  Eventually repetition led to the memorization of numerous chapters.

In times of extreme emotions, whether joy or weariness, I find myself returning to the book of Psalm and its familiar comforting passages.  One particular passage has provided me sustenance over the past few weeks.

“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14 (KJV)

Overwhelming trouble can take a toll on anyone.  It’s possible to feel pressed to a breaking point.  Even the apostle Paul was oppressed and afflicted to the point where he despaired of life (2 Corinthians 1:8).  Like Paul, the psalmist David also encountered the valley of despair.  He has left us direction, in the form of three stepping-stones, which will lead out of the valley.  The stepping-stones call us to: believe, wait and take courage.

Believing

For me, believing has meant a daily rehearsal of who God is, as revealed in Scripture.  It has meant reminding myself of past experiences where God proved himself to be my direction, protection and provider.  I would say to myself, my circumstances and to ‘the defeated one’ “God is good and He keeps His word.”  His word says “in due time I will see His goodness in the land of the living.”

Waiting

The flipside of believing is waiting. I choose daily to continue trusting Him. I have accepted that He led me here and He will lead me through this time of trouble. Further,  because He is leading, I will make it through.  His grace is sufficient and I will not perish in the midst of my trouble.  I will and can trust his timing.  So I can sing with the great gospel writer, James Cleveland, “This too will pass”.  I will give God time to answer.

Taking courage

Waiting takes both time and courage, and courage is rarely found in isolation.  It is cultivated within the context of relationships and honed on the edges of conflicts and struggles.  For instance, Esther went uninvited into the king’s presence only after being prodded by her uncle.  Joshua stood boldly to lead Israel only after being encouraged by God.

Relational bravery has also revealed itself in my life.  In and of myself, I can be timid and fearful.  Yet, in the midst of life challenges God has ministered to me through other believers who consistently remind me, as I remind myself, that courage is a choice.  Their hopes and expectations of God, who has promised to continue His work through me, have buoyed me up.

I will attend to Him, wait on Him and hope in Him while bearing up under the weight of this struggle. Though circumstances crush me, I will choose to do what I have been called to do.

Thinking of these loving friends I’m reminded of a Nigerian proverb: “A friend is one who knows the song of your heart and sings it to you when you forget the words.”  However, I would rewrite the proverb.  For me, a friend has been “someone who knows the song/psalms of the Lord, and who sings them to me –  and sometimes even for me – when life circumstances would have me forget the words.”

To my friends who have stood with me through this long, grueling valley I say thank you.  May God continue to bless you.

  • Are you currently in a challenging situation?  
  • What song(s) do you find yourself singing?
  • Looking back over your journey, how do you define “friend?”