Mercy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within on'e power to punish or harm; an event to be grateful for, especially because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering.
The small town I currently call my home depends largely on year-round tourism; the summers bring hikers and lakeside vacationers, the winters bring skiers and snowmobilers. Winters without snow mean decreased tourism and the whole town suffers to the extent that snow is brought up as a prayer request frequently during our church service. Is waking up to three inches of fresh powder a sign of God's faithfulness? As tempting as it is to immediately begin praising God for His faithfulness in bringing the much-needed snow, I think it's important to instead recognize an answer to prayer like this as a mercy.
Maybe I'm simply criticizing semantics, but I do think we run the risk of an entitled attitude if we think that God's faithfulness is revealed by whether or not He answers our personal prayer requests. God does care about the little 'non-essential' prayers of His people, but He is by no means bound to answer them according to our wishes in order to prove that He is faithful. When I thank God for His faithfulness in providing a community of Christ-centered people to live with, is my deeper attitude one of deserving the community? "God is doing a great job of staying on top of giving me the things I deserve. Thanks, God!" To be honest, I am sinful and prideful enough to believe that on some level I do deserve the day-to-day blessings of life, and that God is really just giving me the due rewards of living a 'Christian' life.
As I sit here writing, a friend came in and gave me a coffee he had bought for me while we are both on a work break. I hadn't asked for the coffee, but he wanted to bless me with a surprise. (I was blessed.) Is the coffee an indicator of his being a faithful friend? By no means! But say this friend and I had been working together for a few months, and say he took delight in surprising me with a cup of delicious coffee from the local coffee shop each day. I get used to the gift, and begin to expect it as a sort of unspoken agreement in our friendship. Is he an unfaithful friend if he on day decides not to get coffee? Am I justified in being put off because he didn't give me what I had come to expect? The coffee was a gift, and it is no less of a gift the hundredth time it is given than it is the first. All that changes is my perspective. Of course, this analogy will fall apart, but the scenario stops me short when I really ask myself if I would be as surprised an thankful for coffee in a few months as I am sipping it right now. I take far too much for granted. I am all too easily tempted into believing that we all deserve the sun each morning, and that God is just holding up His end of our 'unspoken agreement' in each sunrise or answered prayer.
I want to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness. I want to see each morning as a mercy, and not as something I somehow deserve. I'm still seeking understanding in recognizing God's faithfulness, and it will most likely pop up as another blog post in the future. Either that or Grace. I'm still pretty captivated by Grace.