The Varied Textures of Mercy

What Appears to Be God’s Judgment May Actually Be a Rescue

photography of whale tail in body of water
Photo by Daniel Ross on

I used to read the story of Jonah and the great fish as God’s judgment on Jonah. But as I got a little older and read the story again, I saw it differently. It seemed that Jonah’s being swallowed by the fish was actually an act of mercy on God’s part.

After all, the alternative to being swallowed would have been that Jonah drown in the ocean of his own rebellion. It’s never easy when we find ourselves in deep, dark (and slimey) places, but the upside for Jonah was that he lived through it and got another chance.

Sometimes we don’t recognize God’s mercy when it comes to us.

Like when a couple gets the news that their adult  son was arrested and is now in jail. The first reaction was “Wow, that stinks,” but after reflecting a while it dawns on them that maybe this was an answer to their prayers for his safety. Maybe getting busted and having time to regroup and detoxify was a great fish experience. Maybe his being “caught”  on Saturday night was God’s merciful rescue – not His judgment.

Sometimes God’s mercy is easy to recognize because it is gentle and reassuring in our time of need. But other times it may have a completely different texture and feel like a place we don’t want to be any longer than absolutely necessary.

Either way, as a person who needs a lot of it every day, I thank God for mercy.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore have hope: 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 3:21-23

It’s a new day with God. Run with it.


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