Goodness And Mercy

Goodness And Mercy

James Gunn

Jim shivered because of the heavy mist that hung thickly over the whole area. Furthermore, he was quite ill as he lay there on the mountain side. He knew that dawn was breaking, and that soon the sun would raise the temperature and scatter the fog. How he longed for that warmth and comfort!

He had tied his horse to a tree at the side of the path, and weary and sick had thrown himself on a patch of moss where he lay gazing down the slopes that stretched far below into the valley.

Could it be that God had forgotten to be gracious? He wondered. The years which he had spent in missionary service seemed to parade through his mind. He recalled his arrival in the tropics, the struggles to acclimate himself, the spiritual concern for the salvation of the lost that urged him on, and his participation in the work in different towns and cities. He tried to forget the bouts with malaria that had depleted his strength, the hardships that curtailed his activities, and the irresistible fatigue that from time to time possessed him.

The conviction and enthusiasm which had impelled him to join others in a new effort high in the Caribbean hills stirred again within, but for only a few minutes. The disappointments, frustrations and illness of the past months swamped him. His feet, infected by jiggers, burned and itched; and his whole body was sore and red, the result of sleeping in a vermin contaminated house.

The cleanliness and comfort of his father’s home thousands of miles away loomed large in his thinking, and a spasm of nostalgia broke his resistance; he buried his head in his arms and, although he brushed away the tears with his hand, he could not
restrain them. There was nothing around him but filth, disease and ignorance. God must have forgotten the lonely, destitute, exhausted figure that lay that morning on the Caribbean slopes, at least so he thought.

More by habit than through devotion, Jim palled his small Bible from his pocket, and opened it at random. His eyes fell first on Psalm 136 so he began to read, “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever.” If such is the case, reasoned Jim, why am I so ill, so troubled? He did not feel at all thankful; in fact, his mind was rebellious.

Again he started to read, “Oh, give thanks to the God of gods, for His mercy endureth forever.” How can this be? he questioned with a heart cold and unresponsive. He could not relate divine mercy with his circumstances.

Once more he set about to read the Psalm and wondered why each verse ended in the clause, “His mercy endureth forever.” He knew that God gave Pharaoh a double dream for the sake of emphasis. Was the repetition in the Psalm for that same purpose? Was God emphasizing something? Perhaps! Could be! Yes, He was! Through the resistance, coldness, and even the fatigue, the message was penetrating. God’s mercy did endure forever. Jim knew that this was true although under the circumstances he had to say with another Psalmist, “Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known” (Psa. 77:19).

More than forty years have passed since that bitter experience on the mountain side; but today Jim can testify and say, “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord,… who remembered us in our low estate; for His mercy endureth forever.” With retrospect and with anticipation he can say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23:6).