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There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

June 29, 2018

Another Way for week of June 29, 2018

Thoughts on Mercy

It’s a song I’ve sung most of my life at church. As so often happens, I often do not really pay that much attention to the words. We enjoy the tunes and the sound but so often are minds are not open or connecting with the message of the hymn.

I’m guessing you know this one too, if you are a churchgoer: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.” It’s a verysingable and familiar tune, and my hymnal Glory and Praise says it comes from a sturdy Dutch folk melody.

The line that grabbed me profoundly on a recent Sunday was this: “There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.”

When we are hurt or in pain—particularly emotional pain such as after the death of a loved one, divorce, a child’s illness, the many horrific shootings we’ve become too accustomed to—we need to remember that it isn’t a matter of “God took him or her” or “God knows best” and even “God doesn’t make mistakes.”

But especially in the case of a too-early or tragic death, if we believe the line of the hymn, God grieves right along with us.

To me, that is very comforting. When terrible accidents and tragedies happen, God laments with us. When accidents happen—like an accidental gun shooting—God doesn’t cause or allow the tragedy to happen. They just happen—sometimes because of the evil thoughts and actions of men and women. There may be many reasons for accidents—carelessness, overconfidence in one’s ability, showing off, engaging in a sport one loves, making a mistake in speed or other judgment, or taking one’s eyes off the road. God didn’t “allow it to happen,” it just happened.

Rather than focusing on what is the cause, we can focus on supporting those whose lives have been changed forever by the accident or tragedy.  

The week we sang this hymn, I had struggled with a particular weakness of mine. Another line of the hymn reminds us, “There is no place where earth’s failings have such kindly judgment given.” When we can’t forgive ourselves, God does.

When I think of abundant mercy, I think of women and men I have known who have poured out mercy when they were cheated on by a spouse. My husband is not perfect and neither am I (big surprise) but I am so grateful we have not had that problem in our marriage. Or, I think of Wilma Duerksen and her husband Cliff, a family in Manitoba who forgave the killer of their adolescent daughter. I had the opportunity to interview Wilma as our staff at Mennonite Media worked on a documentary, Journey Toward Forgiveness a number of years ago (2001). Hearing the stories of those who’d forgiven enormous wrongs affected all of us deeply who worked on the film, and the viewers we heard from by phone, email, and website.

When there are accidental tragedies, those too take a special gift to be able to forgive whoever was involved. I was touched and deeply moved by the story of Rachelle Friedman who was paralyzed from her neck down the night of her bachelorette party. She and her friends decided to go for a swim in a pool at one of their homes, and horsing around, one friend pushed Rachelle in. It was very shallow water at that end of the pool and Friedman’s head struck the pool’s bottom. She broke her neck, instantly paralyzing her from the collarbone down. A year of so after rehabilitation, she and her fiancé were able to go ahead with the wedding they’d planned, and have since had a child and love each other devotedly. Her mother lives with them to assist as they raise their little daughter, and Friedman forgave her friend, saying she in the past had pushed friends into pools also. Eventually the friendship was too hard to keep up with such a weight on it, and they are no longer actual friends. Friedman has written a book about her accident and the love she’s been shown by her husband and family in The Promise.

I felt this story was worth sharing not only because of the illustration of forgiveness and mercy shown by Friedman, but a prompt to be extra vigilant around pools, rivers, lakes and oceans as you enjoy nature this summer.

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Here’s the tune and version of “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” that I love: https://youtu.be/k-JDxOHTy5I

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What is a hymn that struck you recently in a new way?

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A helpful book that deals with the problem of suffering, mercy, and understanding God’s role–especially where children are involved–is Lord Willing? Wrestling with God’s Role in My Child’s Death, by Jessica Kelley. You can read more or purchase here.

And the film we made, Journey Toward Forgiveness, is still available for sale or download from Vision Video. 

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If you have comments or stories to share, send to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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One Comment
  1. A beautiful post with heart touching examples. I’m intrigued by Rachelle’s book and will look it up. I’m glad she forgave her friend. I wonder though if her friend ever forgave herself. That would be a heavy burden to have to carry.

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