We will never be ashamed of our distress. Distress is to our advantage when we have nothing to seek but mercy. We can be glad of our helplessness when we really believe that His power is made perfect in our infirmity.

The surest sign that we have received a spiritual understanding of God’s love for us is the appreciation of our own poverty in the light of His infinite mercy. 28,29

I do not like being in “distress.” I am not keen on my “helplessness” or my “infirmity.” I would rather escape my “poverty” than be constantly confronted by my weakness.

But, God said to Paul,

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)

And Merton insists that “The surest sign that we have received a spiritual understanding of God’s love for us is the appreciation of our own poverty.”

My “poverty” is the means by which I enter into the “infinite mercy” of God.

The word “mercy” has a complicated etymology. Its roots lie in the ancient Latin merces meaning “payment” or “reward.” Christians adopted the word to refer to the “compassion” given by God to humanity. From this Christian application it passed into Old French as merci, eventually becoming “thank you.” But, in English it maintained the Christian connotation of “compassion” or “forbearance from punishment.”

The original connection of “mercy” with “payment” is interesting. When I am honest, I know I have nothing worthy of offering to God in payment for the gift of life. I have no power by which I can merit the blessings I have received. Due to my weakness, I depend upon the “compassion” and “forbearance” that the Bible tells me are primary characteristics of God.

My “distress” in life is reduced when I acknowledge that all I have to offer God is my “helplessness”, my “infirmity” and my “poverty” and that in return God gives, not condemnation, but “compassion” and “forbearance.” These are the gifts that open me to an awareness of the presence of God freely given in the heart of my being.

What happens when I stop believing I have to earn my way in life?

How does it feel to embrace the idea that all I have to offer in response to the blessings I have received is the poverty of my life?

Advertisements