By definition, mercy is something that is not guaranteed. The American Heritage Dictionary explains mercy like this:
- Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power; clemency.
- A disposition to be kind and forgiving: a heart full of mercy.
So when it is clearly possible to get something else, and we get mercy instead – compassionate treatment, kindness, forgiveness – we tend to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Such was the relief experienced by the prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem. Babylon had conquered, the city was flattened, the nation was defeated, the captivity had begun – and, tragically, it might all have been avoided. It was all their own fault and Jeremiah knew this better than anyone; he had been prophesying it all along.
But Jeremiah had also prophesied that the captivity would last seventy years. As his nation had already been promised an eternal future, he apparently figured that seventy years was, well, doable. Eternity was a lot longer.
When we consider our own difficulties and disasters, we are wise to listen to Jeremiah. He knew disaster well. This doesn’t decrease the reality of our grief. It increases our appreciation of God. When we desire Him more than anything else, His mercies will fill our hearts with hope.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I hope in Him!'”
– Lamentations 3:21-24 (NKJV)