I had the opportunity to speak about the mercy of God a few weeks ago. I learned some things.
You’ll probably recognize it as containing pieces and ideas from several blog posts from this year, but here is most of it anyway.
I had a difficult day recently. My youngest son was up 6 times in the night with an upset stomach and each episode was spaced about an hour apart. By morning, I had garnered roughly the equivalent of 2 ½ hours of sleep, but that morning was nothing ordinary and sleeping in was not an option: I had to be at the hospital with my older son at 6:45am for his tonsillectomy… and my husband was out of town.
I was able to work out a child care solution, but I had very little emotional stamina right when I needed it most. I knew Heavenly Father was watching over me, but I also knew that I felt less than fully capable of meeting the task that was before me.
Maybe you’ve felt that way before. Maybe you’ve had a day when you’ve felt the full burden of something or had your strength tested. Maybe you’ve wondered, “Where is my Savior when I really need Him?” And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a stranger has shown you some very simple kindness that felt to you like the act of an angel- a brief manifestation of love, the very love that Heavenly Father feels for you- and it touched you far more than that person could have known. Maybe someone let you go first. Maybe a kind face smiled at you. Maybe it was a compliment. Maybe someone saw your need and met it without hesitation.
After my son was in the operating room at 9:00, I went down to the cafeteria to find something for breakfast. There was a menu posted. I checked it then checked my purse: I had $4. A plate of scrambled eggs cost $1. A chocolate croissant cost $2.30. Perfect. I gave my order to the cook, who was maybe a little rough around the edges: unshaven and well-pierced, but with kind eyes.
He said, “That’ll be $2.” I looked at him, then at the menu and said, “But…” He shrugged and replied, “Oh, I don’t always go by that.”
I gave him $2, thanked him sincerely and took my breakfast outside because I knew I wasn’t going to get through it with dry eyes.
He had no idea what I had just been through. Maybe he had seen me check my purse. Maybe he could see the weariness in my eyes. Maybe he really doesn’t go by the posted menu, I don’t know, but I do know that that man did something truly divine in that moment: he showed mercy. Justice would have demanded the full $3.30. He gave the food to me for $2. He gained nothing material from doing that; in fact he lost money. But I am quite certain that he will gain some amount of mercy at the judgement bar because there is a part of him that will look a lot like Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” It is the merciful who shall obtain mercy. That’s a bit of a layered statement; it is both a marvelous promise and a rather dire warning.
Why does Heavenly Father want to be merciful to us? If you are a parent, you probably have a pretty good idea. I suspect that if you are a grandparent, you understand it fully. We are part of Him. We are His family, and there is nothing more important than family. With whom do we want to celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas? Family. With whom do we want to mourn at funerals? Family. For whom do we labor and sacrifice? Family. Where do we want to go when we die? Back home. And we want our family to be with us there.
Heavenly Father loves us dearly. He knows we’re going to experience some pretty painful things here. We will make mistakes and sometimes we will be the victims of the mistakes of others. Sometimes difficulties will arise which have no sin attached- life can just be hard sometimes! He planned a solution for all of that by making a way back: a Savior. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to live and die as a perfect example for us and to atone for all of the awful things we might do or experience.
But the difficulties in our lives remain. Why? Where is the Savior when we really need him? He is right there with us, offering His love and mercy. Jesus Christ didn’t come to save us from hardship. He came to save us from ourselves, and the worst that is in us. The atonement makes us one with Him through our faith. When we believe Him, trust Him, lay it all at His feet, and let go of our own bitterness, He can fill the void in our hearts with love.
In the end it won’t matter how hard our lives were; everyone’s life will have been hard. It will only matter how we endured all that we experienced. Did I endure pain, injustice, persecution, even wrongful death and still forgive others… just like Jesus did? In 3 Nephi 27: 21 Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do.” “Forgive them, Father”, He said on the cross.
I have a friend who had three children. Recently, the family was in their boat on a lake when there was a terrible accident caused by a drunken boat driver. Two of her three children were killed. What is that family doing now? They are so grateful for temple ordinances, for one thing. They know their family can be together again. They are also forgiving, loving, and trying their very best to get through the daily pain with the help of their Savior, Jesus Christ. They know that holding onto anger would ruin their souls.
I have another friend who experienced something truly horrible and felt as though she was beneath a weight so heavy she couldn’t get out from under it. In her heart, she knew that forgiving would build the crane that would lift the weight off, but forgiving can be hard. And it takes faith.
In the April 2012 General Conference of the church, President Uchtdorf spoke about mercy. He said this, “We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?
“Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven? Is this difficult to do? Yes, of course.
“Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking—even a change of heart….
“When our hearts are filled with the love of God, something good and pure happens to us. We “keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.
“The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.
“The Savior promised: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. … For with the same measure that [you use] it shall be measured to you again….
“Let us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, return good for evil. Let us not seek revenge or allow our wrath to overcome us.
“For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. … Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Remember: in the end, it is the merciful who obtain mercy.
“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wherever we may be, let us be known as a people who “have love one to another.”
The forgiving obtain forgiveness and the merciful obtain mercy. I am so grateful that He withholds the just consequences I actually deserve until I have been given a chance to prove my faithfulness. What a tremendous blessing!
When we truly understand the magnificent power and reality of Heavenly Father’s offer of mercy and forgiveness through the atonement of Christ and that has been permanently imprinted on our hearts, then we understand how to show mercy to others. Then we understand how to fully forgive others. Then we know why we are asked to do those things- and we are humbled by Christ’s sacrifice for us. We want to be like He is and we will try our very best to give others the $3.30 breakfast for $2, to show others the kind of love we have felt from our Father in Heaven. But not just our friends: also those whom we might not know. Even those for whom we harbor bitter feelings.
In 2 Nephi 26:23-28 it reads, “For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price. Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.”
His grace, His mercy, and His forgiveness are there for all of us: every woman, every man, everyone. And when we forgive another person or show mercy in any small way, we are doing the work that Jesus did. We are following Him. We are on the right path and we are headed home.
We can let go of those things that keep us from progressing along that path: envy, pride, hate, vanity, darkness, and sin. He will take care of any justice that needs to happen, but much later. For now, we are commanded to do the same things He did and forgive just like He did, even when it’s hard. It will fill us with light, love, and peace. Doing the works of Christ makes us happy.
To quote President Uchtdorf again, “Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive. Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgement. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another.”