I was journaling earlier this week about the new year and all the things I love about it. Here’s a sentence that encapsulates it all, “I love new beginnings, fresh starts, clean slates.” And it’s true. Everything seems fresh and exciting. The world is open to possibility, hopes, and dreams. Then God whispered, “This is what I give you every day, not just once a year.”
My mind immediately went to verses that I worked through and taught on last fall.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
I had never really studied or pondered the word mercy, but God kept bringing it to mind as I prepared. So, I dove into the word and was struck with its depth and richness. For the first time in my life, I saw that God’s mercy gives us fresh starts and clean slates every. single. morning.
A Clean Slate for Jeremiah
Lamentations was written during the fall of Israel. After years of holding back and giving warnings, God’s justice required punishment for the people of Israel. The Israelites were being wiped out, some taken into captivity. And Jeremiah, the prophet, is caught in the middle of it all.
For decades, Jeremiah called the people to repentance. And for decades he was a laughing stock. The people chose to listen to false prophets who said what they wanted to hear. And now Jeremiah is watching the collapse of his beloved city. He’s watching the people he loves suffer in incredible ways. He himself is homeless, bereft of peace and without hope. (Lamentations 3:17-20)
And yet in the midst of this, God promises a clean slate and a fresh start. He promises to reserve a remnant. A remnant that will one day return and rebuild. A remnant from whom the Messiah will come. He promises to continue His pursuit of His people and to fulfill His promise for their redemption.
God’s promise of faithfulness restores Jeremiah’s hope. Every day he awakens in the destroyed city, he calls to mind God’s mercy. He remembers that God’s favor is extended toward himself and his people. He believes that God’s mercies will never end.
Jeremiah sees God’s mercies, not as just a distant promise to be enjoyed one day, but as a present reality to be entered into every day. Jeremiah knows he can never reach the end of God’s display of mercy. Thinking on God’s mercy reminds Jeremiah that God is good and is all he needs.
A Clean Slate for You
The same is true for you too. God’s mercies toward you are new every morning. They can give hope, fresh starts and clean slates regardless of the pain you find yourself in today. God never grows weary of extending His mercy toward you. He never reaches His limit – in a day, a year or a lifetime.
Let’s take a look at some of the meanings of mercy. As you understand the depth of this word, hope and trust can grow in you as it did in Jeremiah.
Seven Meanings of Mercy
- God keeps back (withholds) what is deserved. The most obvious area to think about this is in regards to salvation. Death and separation from God are what we should earn because of our sin. We deserve God’s anger, wrath or at least, indifference. And yet, every day He actively withholds those things from us, His children. He also at times withholds natural consequences that we deserve to feel the full weight of. He sees our inadequacies and meets them with mercy.
- God doesn’t enforce His rights. I once heard it said that God is the most gracious person you will ever meet. He has the right to be King, to be worshipped, to be obeyed. He has the right to our full attention and time. He has the right to have full control of our hearts and lives. And yet when other things start to take His rightful place He doesn’t lord Himself over us but works in our hearts and waits for us to be ready to meet Him as He deserves.
- God gives favor and blessing. This is the other side of salvation. Not only does He withhold what we deserve, He also extends the gift of a personal, intimate relationship with Himself to us instead. God is constantly giving to us from His richness and fullness. We will never know all the ways that God graces us with His good gifts, but they are constant and daily.
- God is kind and helpful to those who offend Him. Notice that this isn’t just to those who are poor or who have a need of some kind. No, God goes beyond that. God is kind to those who are against Him. He even helps people who want nothing to do with Him. He has a right to retaliate, to be against them too, but He doesn’t enforce those rights either. He returns good for evil.
- God is patient and self-controlled when we annoy Him. As a parent of a young child, this one is particularly meaningful to me! How often am I annoyed by simple inconveniences or personality quirks? And what is my reaction to that? Not always patience and self-control! As God’s child, how often must I annoy Him?! My humanness and immaturity must constantly be an affront to Him. And yet His reaction is constant and sure. He sees me where I am and meets me there. In fact, I think my annoyances may make Him chuckle!
- God is sympathetic to our distress. When someone is sympathetic to another it means that they share the other’s feelings. God shares your feelings of betrayal, loss, agony, disillusionment, isolation or whatever else you may experience. He enters into that place and comes alongside you. He doesn’t tell you to get over it or tell you what your attitude or feeling should be. He simply holds you close and shares that moment, wiping the tears away and giving you strength from His presence.
- God has deep sorrow for us when we experience hardship. He desires to alleviate our suffering. Think of this from a parent’s perspective. If your child was suffering in some way you would feel sorrow and want to alleviate that suffering for them. It doesn’t mean you always can or you always should. But you would have that desire as a parent. God is our Father. Even when suffering is for our long-term good, He still aches for us as we experience it. He longs for the day when everything will again be perfect as He originally intended. And He does whatever He can, often through the gift of His presence, to lessen the weight of the suffering as we walk through it.
What a rich and full word mercy is! What depth of character God has to extend us mercy in all of these ways each and every day of our lives.
New mercy every day assures us of acceptance. We are fully accepted by God each day in whatever condition we actually find ourselves. He doesn’t give mercy to those who earn it or deserve it – that’s the exact opposite of what mercy actually is!
New mercy every day also gives us freedom. Freedom to love, to try new things, to embrace life, to fail, to fall apart, to need help, to rely on God, to come boldly into His presence. Because mercy doesn’t find fault. Mercy gives even when we don’t deserve it. Mercy identifies with and shares our feelings.
A Clean Slate Every Day
You can’t use up in one day the mercy God has for you tomorrow. You can’t start a day with only a bit of mercy to rely on. Every day you begin with a full measure of mercy, a clean slate, a fresh start.
You can count on this today. And two months from now. And in the middle of summer. And this fall. And in the busyness of the end of the year. For the 365 days of 2018 and the year after that, and the year after that, you can rely on God’s full measure of mercy. It is enough to see you through. It is your clean slate and fresh start for every day of your life.
Which aspect of mercy do you need to think on and internalize? Why not take 5 minutes today to do that. Or take 5 minutes every day this week to think about a different meaning of mercy.
Ask God to help you internalize its truths so that it can provide a secure foundation for living as He intends. Jeremiah’s perspective was changed as he pondered God’s love and mercy. Yours can be too!
If you’ve never heard Lamentations 3:22-23 sung, take 2 minutes to listen to it now. It’s a simple melody that might help you in the midst of daily life to turn your mind to God’s marvelous mercy!