The Mercy Of A Savior Who Empties Our Hands Of Merit And Fills Our Heart With Praise

Sometimes God ordains for us to be met with a suffering that renders us wholly devoid of any understanding of our Father's dealings. Left with no strength to speak, we groan as the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and pleads our need to the only trustworthy Captain capable of maneuvering us through the sea of sorrow that churns with waters understood by him alone. Stripped of all sufficiency, we find ourselves painfully brought to a place of surrender with no power left to pound a fist in frustration, pace a floor in anxiety, or plan an escape in darkness. Emptied and poured out, we find ourselves landing where the broken rest. The beautifully broken, delivered from all delusions of control by the severe mercy of a protective Father.   

Not the severe mercy of an angry Father rendering us weak, but the severe mercy of a loving Father restoring us to the reality that we are weak.  

It's the severe mercy of a loving father whose endangered child angrily resists loving rescue from fun because he doesn't see the need for deliverance from imminent death. Only this severe mercy isn't just for deliverance from death, it's for deliverance from the sinful pride and selfish passions that find us swimming in the deception of our own perceived control. Deliverance from the spirit of self-ambition that leaves us clinging tightly to our dreams that bring glory to our proven name, our proven power, our proven perseverance. 

Closed hands clinging to self-glory that, without merciful deliverance, will never be emptied enough to give genuine praise to the God who is deserving of all glory. Closed hands tirelessly clinging to every sliver of merit as identification of worth. Closed hands sadly closing the heart to the beautiful filling of love, joy and peace.  

"Our lives—from first to last, in times glorious and hours black and bleak— are not our own but have been and will continue to be in the hands of a good and gracious God. We like to imagine that we've had something to do with all this: It's the result, at least in part, of our good judgment in receiving the gospel, our commitment to stick with Jesus in the hardest of times, our disciplined spirituality, our determination to persevere. To be sure, we say, it is all due to God's grace alone; but day to day we're tempted to lean on at least a sliver of effort on our part. It's this sliver that sets us apart from unbelievers and the nominal in faith, isn't it? It's this sliver that makes us worthy of being called children of God. And it's this sliver, however tiny, that we wear like a talisman, like a badge of merit." Mark Galli 

The severe mercy of a perfectly loving Savior alone can deliver us to the place of rest where every self-righteous sliver of merit resounds with the glory of God as it shatters to the ground. The severe mercy of a trustworthy and faithful Savior alone can deliver us. A Savior whose wounding never comes with intention to destroy us, but with purpose to heal us; never with intention to ruin us, but with purpose to restore us. 

It's one thing to embrace the gospel truth that Christ is our only hope in death, but it's another to cling to the truth that Christ is our only hope in life. And it's one thing to wax eloquently about grace, but it's another to remain in utter reliance on that grace. God desires that we understand the difference, and he has given us a gift of powerful instruction by granting us a front-row seat to the merciful wounding of the Psalmist David. There's much to be learned from the lament of this beloved servant of God whose fight with suffering always beautifully ends with a song of freedom.

Imagine for a moment that you and I are seated together, awaiting for David's story to unfold on the stage before us: 

The curtain is opening and as the lights come up we're met with an angry man wildly pacing the floor. His emotional intensity is raw, and every exaggerated movement flows with the hot blood of frustration. Suddenly he stops, turns and points an accusing finger to the sky. He seems fearful, and his breathing is heavy as he tries to release words that stick in his throat. Finally courage wins and he spills out his heart to the Sovereign King he assumes has decreed his suffering. Once unleashed, his words flow like hot lava: "You have done this!" "You have caused my companions to shun me!" "You have put me in the depths of this pit!" "You have ordered my suffering!"

It's a fiery opening scene, and as the lights go down we find ourselves shifting uneasily in our seats uncertain of the reverence, the respect, or even the rightness of what we've just witnessed. It's left us feeling terribly uncomfortable, and questions dart through our minds. 

Did David actually express anger toward God? Was God actually the one who did this wounding? Is God actually the one who caused David's suffering? Did God ordain this, or did he just permit this?  

Before we have time to contemplate longer, the lights come up dimly and we see the silhouette of a man slumped forward in a chair with his face buried in his hands. He's so unlike the angry man of the first scene that we're uncertain it's David. But he's slowly raising his head and we recognize the profile as he turns his eyes upward. More weary than angry, with trembling voice he begins to flood the heavens with questions of confusion that beg for understanding: "Why, O Lord, do you stand afar off?" "Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" "Will you reject me forever?" "Oh God, where are you in my suffering?" 

Once again we find ourselves shifting uncomfortably in our seats as the lights goes down. This time we're left quietly wrestling in the darkness with painful words that have targeted our hearts with too much precision and power to speak.  

Why, Lord? Why oh why do you seem so far away? When will this darkness ever end, Lord? Why have you forsaken me?

Fighting back tears in embarrassment, we watch the lights slowly come up to reveal what looks like a cross. The room is silent as we strain our eyes to percieve the image. Slowly but surely, the lights keep coming up brighter and brighter, casting what looks like warm golden rays of sunshine throughout the theater. And then there in front of us in the middle of the bright glory we see a man kneeling beneath the cross, his arms outstretched wide with hands fully open.

It's David. Joyfully lifting open hands that are free from the weights of self-merit, self-ambition, self-confidence. It's David, God's beloved child. Joyfully lifting open hands that are free from the wearisome weight of self-righteousness. It's David, God's beloved child set free from himself. 

By now we're done trying to fight back the tears. It's no use, because we've completely lost it. In fact, gratitude for God's amazing grace has so overwhelmed our hearts that we are standing like hapless fools with no concern for ourselves but for the glorifying of our Savior. Overwhelmed by thanksgiving, in unison with David we are proclaiming the majesty of our Good and Great King with more power and authority than all who reside in Royal England's entire family tree: 

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever!

All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations!

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing!

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy!

Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever! 

[Psalm 145: A Psalm Of Praise Of David]