Is God more merciful than we think? That’s a good question. When I “got saved” back in 1986 it was as a result of me eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation. I don’t remember what was being said. I just know that a lady I worked with, Shirley, was always talking about Jesus. The more I heard the more I wanted to know. This caused me to start reading the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. I was immediately attracted to the power of Jesus to heal. I believed. I believe He is who He says He is, the son of the living God. I believed what John the Baptist said about Him, that he was the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. I believed what the Apostle John said also, that “God so loved the world that he gave His only son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish, but have eternal life.”(John 3:16)
At the beginning of my spiritual knowledge, I was very excited. I went to church with my mom and made my confession public by walking down the aisle during a baptist invitation. That’s where they play the solemn music and invite people to come down to the front to “give their lives to Christ.” That was also my indoctrination to the Baptist way of doing things. I learned a lot there in the beginning. It was there that I learned that I didn’t need to do anything except believe in order to have salvation and avoid going to hell. They taught me that God was merciful.
Over the years I had also learned that I need to be faithful and do my best to obey God’s law. Not to be saved of course, but to be able to receive all the blessing God has for me. Sounded reasonable to me so, I did my best. And as I was taught I regularly confessed my sins. Some people believe that if you happen to die with unconfessed sins that you could find yourself in hell, essentially losing your salvation. Is God more merciful than that?
What ended up happening for me is an attempted maintenance of my life through what I now know were just religious works. I was the one doing and doing and doing. I was trying to control my sinful impulse using self-discipline. I was asking God to help me in my efforts. I was trying and failing miserably to control my flesh. And then eventually, on several occasions in my life, I seemed to lose complete control. My loss of control manifested itself in drunken binges, anger, fornication, pornography, masturbation, violent thoughts, even giving into violence. Fortunately, the people who were to be the recipients of my most violent acts of destruction were out of my reach. I was and sometimes am a serious mess!
At a point I began to wonder to myself, when is God going to strike me down? Surely he couldn’t possibly still love me, could He? Is He more merciful than that? Once after a night of drinking, I woke up with my head pounding. I had a serious hangover, but my mind was crystal clear. I was drinking because my married life was falling apart, and had been for many months. I was so angry with so many people. Not only that but I was angry with God. So angry that in that moment I didn’t care. I didn’t care about God and his laws or what He might do to me. I opened my mouth and said, “I hate you.” Maybe you are wondering, is God merciful enough for that?
I’m here to tell you that He is so much more merciful than anyone could possibly imagine. In that moment, me telling God that I hated Him, I was shocked at His response. He didn’t speak to me but, in that moment I was suddenly aware of His presence in the room. It was not a fearful or dreadful presence. It was one of extreme love and peace and gentleness and assurance. In all my life I had never felt so safe as I did in that moment. His manifest presence was with me for a long time that day. I had a flight later that morning, heading back to Naples, Italy. As much as I hated flying and was usually secretly afraid, that day there was no fear as I rested in the arms of my Father.
From that day forward I knew that God loves me. Father is more merciful than we think. I don’t know how we got so off track, thinking that He is some angry God waiting to punish us if we make the smallest mistake. He longs to hold us in His arms and tell us He loves us. He wants to comfort us and reassure us in this life that He is for us and not against us. That was the whole point of sending His son. Jesus mounted a rescue. We were the lost sheep he was talking about. We are the ones He came to save and He has succeeded. Now that He has the victory the Father has access to His children and we have access to our Father.
God, our Father, our Brother (the Son of God), and the Spirit of adoption – Merciful? You don’t know the half. God is Good! Soooo Goood! Indeed He is more merciful than we could ever imagine.