Misery   

I am waiting for spring. The calendar says it’s here, but the weather denies it. The temperature isn’t as high as I want it to be. Thick clouds clothe the sun, and rain promises blossoms - but for now it is just damp and cold. Driving home through the puddles, I thought, “This is miserable!” That started a word safari.  

We use the word “miserable” in a host of situations. The weather can be miserable but so can our moods. “Miserable” applies to poor living conditions or to physical suffering. There may be homes filled with misery or international conflicts which cause it. Most uses of the word apply to what we feel or what we experience. “Miserable” becomes an adjective about us. But, the root word describes something we are.  

Misery is tied to mercy. The word originally was used to speak of people or situations in need of the mercy of God. If someone was sick unto death, if poverty was draining their lives, if they were victims of human abuse - they were miserable. They needed mercy from our Lord. “Miserable” was less a description of their mood or situation; it was more of a prayer. In that sense, we are all miserable.  

We do not have to be in a dire situation to be miserable. We need mercy every day. Mercy toward our sins. Mercy upon the space between what we are and what we should be. We need God’s mercy for our decisions, directions, relationships, and responsibilities. Since we continually fall short of the glory of God, we are continually miserable - in need of mercy. And the mercy of God is an infinite fount.  

Mercy is the undeserved favour of God. It is His kindness, disconnected to our worthiness. Mercy is not deterred by repeated failures, troubles of our own making, the significance or insignificance of our need, or the frequency of our petition. You can’t think of a single barrier to God’s mercy. His favour hurdles every obstacle we place before it. That’s what makes it mercy.  

So, in your misery, whatever it be, there is hope for help. Read the gospels. Sightless beggars, disgraced women, fathers with dying children, lepers, paralytics, corrupt tax collectors - all miserable people, looked to Jesus for mercy. They were not disappointed. Those who lean upon His mercy, do not fall. I risk raising theological eyebrows writing the next sentence, but it’s a risk I embrace. A prayer for mercy is a prayer God will not, cannot ignore. That is good news for miserable people.