Mercy for God?

God needs or mercy.  Wait!  What?

Job 31:35-37, NRSV

Devotional Thought

I don’t know how to pose this question other than to be straightforward. How does one deal with the need to show God mercy? Now, before you stone me, allow me to elaborate. I am not suggesting that God needs our mercy. I hold to the Scripture’s depiction of God as the Holy One, perfect in every way. What I’m getting at is that the need we have to grant mercy to God is ours.

Mercy is the flipside of the coin from grace. Mercy is unconditional love that withholds punishment. The opposite of mercy is not so much cruelty, as it is condemnation. When a person is unmerciful toward another, he is out to condemn that person or that person’s actions.

So, let’s say that your friend contracts a fatal disease and dies. As a consequence of grief, you feel anger toward God and even blame God for not favorably acting on your prayers to cure your friend. Then you choose to punish God by not speaking to God. Perhaps you even stop attending worship.

Your friends tell you that it’s wrong of you to blame God for anything. God has just cause to hold a grudge against you if He chose to do so. You, however, have no such justification.

Theologically, I understand this line of reasoning. I happen to also agree with it. Yet feelings are feelings. Anger doesn’t easily go away simply because a doctrinal statement is true.

The case I am building here is that of Job’s. Job was a person who felt wronged by God. Job tacitly indicated that God was to blame for his terrible misfortune. For the better part of the book, Job talked about God with his friends but never spoke directly to God. A psychologist would call such behavior an act of avoidance, which is nothing more than letting one’s anger stew.

In short, Job is acting unmercifully toward God. Even more, Job demonstrates by his actions that his love for God was conditional all along. Since God failed to live up to Job’s expectations, Job effectively to stop loving God.

So, back to my initial question: how does one deal with the need to offer God mercy? The short reply is to vent one’s anger to God. Ultimately, Job breaks his silence with God and requests a chance to loudly voice before God his concerns. In the end, Job reaches an accord with God. God never fully explains why Job’s prayers were not answered in the manner he wanted. What Job discovers, however, is that even when he did not love unconditionally, God unconditionally expresses love to Job. If Job had not reopened the channels of communication between his self and God, Job would still be stewing in anger and making himself more miserable by the day.

When I find myself not on speaking terms with God, I have learned to ask these questions: what kind of love do I have for God? Is mine a love that is truly unconditional? If it is, then why am I treating God so unmercifully?