Part 1: Our Loving, Merciful, Faithful, Good, and Compassionate God
Well, 2020, you’re really outdoing yourself. We were getting into the early spring groove, the major holidays were behind us, and the sun was beginning to shine. And then, whammy! You took our well-laid plans and flushed them down the toilet.
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
This is a verse I memorized when I was a child. It’s the kind of verse you believe and think you understand until you live it.
When you’re in the middle of it, it’s the kind of verse you really don’t want to hear about.
But when you’ve come to the end of yourself, when all else fails and you need a new hope, this verse brings you back to the true hope. “But it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
I know that we all want our will to be the one that prevails. At least on the surface, until we make enough mistakes along the way to realize that our will can’t be counted on. So we relax in knowing that our Lord is in charge. He is working out his purpose. His plan can’t be thwarted!
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of your can be thwarted.”
Job 42:2 (NIV)
We can find comfort for a hard situation when we look to God, the King. Hope comes when we remember who God is and what his purposes are. Let’s explore some of what the Bible tells us about the character of God.
Who God Is
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him…
For the Lord will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
Lamentations 3:22-25, 31-32
God’s Steadfast Love
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…”
Yesterday I was working hard on a project on my computer. My family knows that that’s when I’m likely to get what I call “brain-fried.” So when Owen, my awesome teenage boy whom I love, came to me asking for help with his homework, I was short-tempered, distracted, unhelpful and grumpy. Here’s the thing: I love Owen. I love him very much! But I don’t love him very well. A parent’s love for their child is a great picture of God’s love for us, but it hardly skims the surface of the full picture.
God doesn’t just have lots of love. Or feel love deeply. He is love. He defines it. It exists entirely within him. Everything we know and understand about the purest love comes from the very existence of God.
“God is love.”
1 John 4:8.
“…his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…”
Have you ever tried to be kind someone who didn’t deserve or even want your kindness? Unselfishly, without an agenda?
Actually, I’ve got a gift for kindness…sort of. In 1999 I won the Colorado Springs Customer Service Person of the Year award, which was presented to me by the mayor. (I know, I’m kind of a big deal.) In fact, I excel at kindness, but I use it as a shield to defend myself from someone else’s ugliness. I’m kind to others for my sake, not for theirs.
I’m kind to others for my sake, not for theirs. God’s mercy is his kindness to us for our sake, even when it meant his own suffering and death
God’s mercy is his kindness to us for our sake, even when it meant his own suffering and death. His lavish, loving goodness was poured onto us even when we would never deserve it.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:4-6
“…great is your faithfulness.”
I’ve worked with college students in the church for many years. Unsurprisingly, the amount of turn-over in this ministry is very high. Students who are very involved one semester disappear into their work and studies the next semester. And regularly, students whom I’ve cared for and befriended move on to different hobbies or interests and stop returning my calls.
The shocking things, friends, is how unfaithful I am to these friends. As soon as I sense their rejection, I defensively turn my back on them. I don’t want to remain faithful to them because that would leave me vulnerable to being hurt by them.
What a different picture from our God who remains continually faithful to us! The world will betray us, but God will never give up on us. As our loving Father, he won’t ever turn his back on us.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”
2 Timothy 2:13
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him..“
In a great marriage, on a great day, when each spouse is walking with God, and feeling encouraged and emotionally nourished in the marriage, the husband and wife will respond in each situation for the good of the other person. Like I did yesterday when…wait no, I was selfish then. I mean last Tuesday, when…no, not then either.
God is good. We are not.*
Every plan he makes is based on as much on his goodness as on any other part of his character. He is not capricious, playing with us for his own amusement. He is good. As with love, he defines good because the quality is so tied up in his character.
“The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion.”
I saw an argument on Facebook yesterday where one party was expressing disgust at a person who could complain about losing their job when people in the world are dying of poverty or illness. Our world cares a great deal about compassion but we fail miserably at living it.
We fail to be compassionate when someone far away, whose life doesn’t touch our own, suffers.
We fail to be compassionate when someone loses their job because we perceive them to be privileged.
We fail to be compassionate when we virtually insult each other from our armchairs while sipping a soda.
We value compassion, but we fail to be compassionate.
We value compassion, but we fail to be compassionate. God’s compassion never fails.
God’s compassion never fails. We don’t always understand the purposes of God and why he allows the hard things (“though be cause grief…” v. 32). But one thing we know is that he cares. We can express our hurts and our hearts to him and know that he is listening and that he hurts for us. His greatest compassion was expressed when he literally hurt for us, as he died on the cross so we could have life in him.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
This is the God we trust! The One who is Loving, Merciful, Faithful, Good, and Compassionate even when we least deserve it.
*Note: When we put our trust in Christ we receive his record of goodness. And with God’s Spirit in us, we are growing to be more like him. So we could correctly say we are good, and though we’re bad at it, we are getting better at being good.