Divine Mercies Along the Way

God provides mercies for our journey:

The Christian life is certainly not always smooth sailing. Rough patches can abound as much as smooth ones. While we have many scriptural promises of God always being with us, we have no such passages saying we will always be free of troubles and trials, hardships and headaches.

When I write about these sorts of things, I usually have myself in mind first and foremost. Others may or may not need a piece like this, but I do. And when I get a bit personal in such articles, it can be to the liking of some, but not to all.

But I want to avoid just writing theoretical or esoteric pieces on serious matters such as this. So I will here speak from my own personal journey, but without providing all the details. Suffice it to say that some rough times of late have been something I have had to deal with.

And as often can be the case, sometimes things can come to a head. It will seem that everything that can go wrong will go wrong – and all at the same time. During those periods even a strong Christian can feel overwhelmed and sink into deep despair.

While we all can go through these periods when things seem to be at their blackest and bleakest and most rock bottom, they do not end there. I have often found that during such times God will send a little something or someone my way to offer me some hope and show me some light at the end of the tunnel.

These can come in many different forms. A friend you had not heard from in a while might suddenly appear on the scene. An encouraging letter or email might suddenly arrive. Someone contacts you and says a word of encouragement or blessing. Someone might take you out for a coffee, or post a book in the mail to you. They might just serve up a quick compliment to you.

All sorts of things might happen, and they can all be seen as little mercies along the way. Just when your grief and suffering seem to be too much, a little mercy will come your way, sent by the hand of God. And it often can be enough to snap you out of your despair, and give you the needed strength to keep going.

Yes I know: we are meant to rise above our circumstances and look to God alone. We are not to find our joy and peace and comfort in what is happening to us and around us, etc. But… God knows how frail and weak we usually are. He knows that we are mere men.

He knows that we can be rocked by our trials and buffeted by the enemy. So he is more than willing to bless us with mercies along the way – be they big or little. He knows what we need and he knows when we need it. So we must never give up – God is always there, even when it seems like he is not.

Indeed, when things seem the darkest and most hopeless, that is exactly when we should not give up. Secular voices can even speak to this. As Churchill once famously said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Or as he also said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in.”

But so many of the great saints of the past can of course be drawn upon here. One of the mighty men of God who knew more than most of us what it was like to suffer, to have afflictions, and to deal with despair, doubt and depression was the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon.

There would be many dozens of his sermons we could make use of here. Let me draw upon just one of them. In it he reminds believers to recall the mercies of God in the past to help us as we face the difficulties of today. It is titled “The Pilgrim’s Grateful Recollections” and was preached on July 3, 1870. He bases it on Deuteronomy 8:3-6:

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.  

He opens his sermon with these words:

Our aptness to forget God’s mercies, is, alas! too conspicuous. It has been said that the annals of a prosperous and peaceful country are singularly uninteresting; does this arise from the fact that we do not make memoranda of our mercies, or at least if we do they are far more readily blotted out than the records of our sorrows? We trace our joys in the sand, but we write our afflictions on marble. We forget the streams of mercy, never ceasing, which flow so continually parallel with our pathway. If we thus ungratefully forget, it should cause us serious reflections, when we see that God does not forget. Here in this Book he brings to his people’s memories all the mercies they have received, because they were always present before his own mind. The child may forget the kindness of its mother, but the mother doth not forget what she bore, and what she has sacrificed for her child. The friend may forget what he has received, but it is not likely that the benefactor will forget what he has bestowed. If God’s memory therefore records all that he has given me, let me be ashamed to let my memory suffer these things to slip. What God counts worthy of his divine recollection let me record on the pages of my memory, and often let me peruse the record.


We are also far too slow to draw the inference of obligation from benefits received. We receive the blessing, but we do not always feel that a proportionate debt is due in return to God, the bounteous giver of every good gift; yet grace has its obligations as well as laws— obligations which honourable minds reckon to be among the first to be discharged. If I do not do what I ought because I fear the law, at any rate let me prove that I am not so base as to be ungrateful to undeserved mercy and love. It has been said by some, and there have been others whose lives have almost proved it, that the driving of the law is more effectual to produce works than the sweet drawings of the gospel; but it ought not to be so— and if it be so, the fault is in the man acted upon, and not in the principle of gratitude; for with right-minded men, with men educated by the Spirit of God, with men who are lifted up out of the common mass of mankind and endowed with the higher life, the highest motive that can be suggested even by infinite wisdom is the motive which is drawn from the transcendent love and grace of God.

Yes I think we can all acknowledge this. We might find ourselves in a jam, and we cry out to God, and he offers us mercy and grace along the way, and we thank him for it, but… All too soon we have forgotten all about these tender mercies and we go right back to our old ways.

So we forget what he has done in the past, and we end up panicking again when we get in new troubles and trials, not recalling how God has always come through before – maybe not as we wanted him to, but he still came through. Spurgeon then looks in great detail at the mercies ancient Israel had experienced, and then concludes:

I close by saying, we who have followed God’s word so far, and experienced the faithfulness of God so long, ought never to give way to unbelief. Thy foot has not swollen, thy garment has not waxed old these forty years— why wilt thou then mistrust or be suspicious? If he meant to deceive thee he would have left thee long ago.


“He cannot have taught thee
To trust in his name,
And thus far have brought thee
To put thee to shame.”


Go on! the present difficulty will melt like the past. Go on! the future mercy will be as sure as the mercies that have hitherto come to thee. Though winds and waves go o’er thy head, and friends vanish from thee, “trust in the Lord, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and, verily, thou shalt be fed.” The heavens and the earth may pass away, and rocks run to rivers, and the sun turn to a coal, but the eternal promise ne’er shall fail, and the heart of infinite love shall never change. “Be of good comfort, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”


What encouragement all this gives to young brethren who are setting out in the Christian life, or about to engage in the Christian ministry! With that reflection I close. If your fathers, and your fellow Christians of elder years, can say that their bread has been given them, and their supplies have been all-sufficient, then rest assured, my brethren, you are entering upon a happy life, even if it be a tried and difficult one ; for the Lord who has dealt so well with some of his people, gives in that fact a pledge that he will deal so with all. Commit yourselves wholly to God, give up all your powers to his service, work for him with all your hearts, and he will supply your needs. Think not of this world’s gain, but “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Lay self in the dust, and let Christ be all in all. Live by the rule of truth; walk by the way of faith; have confidence in God, and your path shall be as brightness, and your glory as a lamp that burneth. Joined on earth to the band of Christian soldiers, you shall ere long be added to the countless host of the church triumphant, who at this hour bear Witness that God is faithful, and that his promise is sure. https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-pilgrims-grateful-recollections/#flipbook/

I for one certainly need to be reminded of these truths. We will all go through deep and dark valleys, but God will be there the whole way, offering us mercies for the journey. Keep your eyes open for them.

[1849 words]

5 Replies to “Divine Mercies Along the Way”

  1. This touches on another situation many like myself will experience/suffer. Sometimes, the church is not equipped to deal with certain areas of suffering, namely that being depression.
    It still seems to be a taboo subject for many well meaning christians who believe now that we have the holy spirit and walk with Christ, we shouldn’t suffer things like anxiety, depression etc.
    I have struggled with the black dog/melancholy all my life. Before Christ, I truly felt bleak and of no hope, but, it was this very thing that brought (or should I say the very thing God used)me to my knees to call out to God. Early on in my pentecostal days, I was told it was my lack of faith that caused me to continue suffering, I was also told perhaps I had a demon.
    Moving on from those days, in reformed circles, I find that for different reasons, once again, well meaning Christians seem to think that this purely an attitude and state of mind problem that, with enough bible reading and praying, should alleviate all mental suffering.
    This is the dichotomy for me, on the one hand, I can say I’m still afflicted by this horrid thorn, but on the other, I’m healed because the reality of Jesus Christ is now in my life, I have been healed!
    Sorry to rant on, but I find we can sometimes become like jobs accusors instead of those who comfort others, and this subject has come up in my local church a few times (not regarding me) and I’m saddened by the lack of understanding and love, towards those who genuinely suffer and wish they did not have this affliction
    I understand many use “mental health” to justify sin and to excuse oneself of accountability, (or those who use it for self pity or to get attentiin)but this is not what I’m talking about.
    I’m so glad scripture tells us the warts and all from those figures we look up to, like elijah who experienced depression, sorrow, and wished death.
    Also, out lord who was a “man of sorrows” through affliction and trials,

  2. Hi Bill,

    Thank you for your thoughts, teaching, and great faith, in Jesus Christ, our best friend and grace provider, who made it possible for us to go through tough times, because of His great sacrifice on the cross…

    Please keep sharing your thoughts and request for prayer and support, with the rest of us, His church, as we persevere, through the tough times ahead, together.

    Cheers & blessings

    Eric Hansen

  3. Just one response to this excellent piece by Bill (and thank you, Bill, so much for writing it). I am a retired nurse and a practising Catholic and now, also a widow. Our Lord and Saviour is the Creator of Heaven and Earth and He works in many wonderful ways. When it comes to the invention of life-saving medical adjuncts like some forms of antidepressant medication, I believe that given His omnipotence, He may have placed the potential curative chemical sequence within antidepressants within science, awaiting discovery and future use to save lives, because, as Bill so rightly says above, He is a merciful, compassionate and loving God and does not want us to end our lives through despair and depression. He also made the practice of cognitive behavioural therapy open to counselors and psychotherapists, especially those who can integrate it into Christian faith. Sometimes, our Lord works through science to express His will and exercise his loving works on our behalf.

  4. Thanks for your insights. Bill. A helpful phrase to remember: “Pray hardest when it is hardest to pray.” I can’t remember where I first heard it. And also remember this: it is fine to yell at God if the alternative is not talking to Him at all. God will forgive you for your anger and help you in your despair.

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