I still remember the words quite clearly: “Alexi, I don’t know what it is that I did to deserve this severe condition.” She was a precious child of God who had lived with pain for several decades. Now, for the last several years, she was bed-ridden most of the time. She had practically no visitors since her condition was so bad. For many hours of the day, she was alone in her room, silently experiencing the pain throughout her body.
In every area of her life, she had a positive influence. She was a good mother to her children. And in the churches she and her husband pastured she remained active as long and as much as her body would allow. But the questions remained not only for her, but for me as well. Why did she have to suffer so much? I’ve known her since I was seventeen. I know that there is nothing that would warrant such pain for such an extended period of many years.
So there I was, standing by her bedside listening to some very difficult questions for which I had no answer. I am sure she had similar questions during these years that I’ve known her. But really, is God full of anger and violence? We see in the Old Testament that God had set some high standards for his people and expected them to live up to those standards. We also see him punishing those who do not live up to those standards. But between the high standards and the punishment, there is a lengthy time of waiting with patience. God wants his people to come to repentance, but his method is through showing mercy and kindness.
Job talked about rebellious people and their arrogant words against God. Then he acknowledged that God “filled their houses with good things.” (Job 22:17-18a ESV) Throughout Israel’s history, we see that “Mercy Gap” of time where God waits and expects to see repentance as a result of his mercy.
The writer of Romans also expresses the same idea with more direct words and says that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4b ESV). Thus God continues to extend his mercy to us in the midst of our sin, disobedience, and even rebellion. When we look at the history of the people of Israel, we realize that the “Mercy Gap” is quite an extensive gap where God stretches his patience beyond all limits. Then, when that limit runs out, it is still his mercy that drives him to punish. But that punishment is not meant to destroy but to build up and eventually bring us to repentance.
So, what about that lady who lived with pain for so many years? Since our God is a God of kindness with a large “Mercy Gap,” her problem was not due to the judgement of God. That we can safely rule out. She was a child of God who experienced much pain because of the brokenness of this fallen world we live in.
How have you experienced God’s mercy in your life? How large was that “Mercy Gap” for you?
You can share that in the comments section of this blog post.