When Mercy Doesn’t Look Merciful

As sinners against the holy God our Creator, we know that all we really deserve is eternity in hell.  So, anything we receive that is the least bit better than that suffering, we should view as God’s mercy to us.

However, many times in life, we have difficulty recognizing God’s mercy.  For God’s mercy does not always look merciful.

In Genesis 37-39, Joseph experiences horrendous mistreatment.  He is kidnapped by his own brothers, sold by them to Ishmeelite traveling merchants, taken from his home and father to a foreign land, pressed into slavery to an Egyptian captain of the guard, whose wife tries repeatedly to seduce him, and finally imprisoned because of her false accusations!



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How was it merciful to be sold into slavery?

Well…at least slavery was better than Joseph suffering his brothers’ original intent of killing him!

And where was God’s mercy while Joseph lived as a slave or a prisoner?

Right where it has always been…in God…and His presence with Joseph.

But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  Genesis 39:21

God’s mercy to Joseph was to give him favour in the eyes of each of his masters.  Joseph was then treated well while he served as a slave and while in prison.

Even Joseph being falsely accused of rape had a merciful side to it.  He was finally able to get away from the incessant temptation of his master’s ungodly wife.  God provided Joseph’s escape!  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Again, mercy doesn’t always look like mercy.  This time, mercy for Joseph was prison!

Joseph has an amazing testimony, though.  Notice what Joseph doesn’t do in each of these situations.  He doesn’t give up and give in to despair.  Or complain and lash out in anger.

Instead, he does his best to honor and work for the good of those over him.  But he keeps his focus on God during it all.  He cares most about God’s laws and opinion of him as evidenced in his answer to the captain of the guard’s wife.

There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?  Genesis 39:9

We will never see and be comforted by God’s mercies to us in the hard times if we are too busy hollering…NOT FAIR…at the top of our lungs to any and all who will listen. 

If our focus is on ourselves and our problems, we’ll miss God’s mercies and the blessing of realizing that God is truly always with us and, oh, so merciful.

You may be thinking, “Ok.  Sounds good.  But where was God’s mercy when my fiancé was killed before we were even able to marry?”

Or, when my fiancé dumped me right before the wedding?

Or, when my daughter was killed by a drunk driver?

Or, when I lost my husband to cancer?

Well, since none of these things have happened to me in my life, and I have not lived in your shoes, I cannot say exactly where God’s mercy is in your situation.  But I can say with all certainty that it is there.  For I know that if you are God’s daughter, He has not left you, so neither has His mercy.  You just may have to look a little harder to see it.

I’m sure it was hard for Joseph at times to see God’s mercy in his situation.  Joseph was at the mercy of all around him.  He had no way to free himself or to defend himself.

But the LORD… 

And that’s the key. 

In hard times, it is imperative that we force ourselves to remember…“but the LORD.” He is with me, and He is my hope.  He can and will be my rock and my refuge and my strength.

We then will be able to realize that God’s mercy is still all around us.  God’s mercy is there in the people He uses to comfort us when we’re hurting and confused.  Those who bring food, give hugs, or just listen are God’s mercy.

For more help growing in your walk with God, you’ll want to be sure to check out all these Practical Ways to Get Closer to God Today!

In the horrible situations I mentioned above, God’s mercy can be the realization that the situation or circumstances could have been worse.  But God in His mercy held back the worst that could have happened.  And since only He knows the future, we just have to trust that that is exactly what He did.

But what about the loss of a loved one?  Where is the mercy in that?

I think of the sudden death of a loved one as horrible for many reasons, yet merciful to the child of God who was able to leave this life quickly without the pain and suffering of a lingering illness.

But then I think of those who suffer from a lingering illness as having God’s mercy in being able to say those last things to loved ones and grieve with them before leaving.

Whatever your extremely difficult times may look like, remember that God has not left you.  (Hebrews 13:5)  Then look around you for His merciful kindnesses.

Think about how the situation could have been worse, if not for God’s intervention.

That is His mercy!

And instead of complaining or despair, praise God and thank Him for all the ways He still blesses, protects, provides, and comforts in the midst of great trial and sorrows!

But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.  Psalm 59:16

I absolutely love the song, Blessings, by Laura Story.  If you have not heard it, please click HERE to listen.

The chorus says—

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise


The next time life takes a terrible turn, ask God to open your eyes to His mercies.  Consider that you are simply watching God’s mercies in disguise.  And praise Him! 


Drawing nigh to Him,


This post is part of our Genesis Bible study.

Study Journal available >> HERE!


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