The Transcendence Of God’s Mercy

God is transcendent, of that I’ve been sure. He is higher than His creation and therefore surpasses our ability to dissect Him, analyze Him, pigeonhole Him into our compartments of understanding. In fact, if He hadn’t chosen to reveal Himself, we would be forever shut out of His presence in ignorant misery — desperately longing, incapable of reaching.

In fact, one of my favorite passages of Scripture spells out this transcendent nature of God:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)

I’d never thought much more of transcendence — just that God is. But today, I came across a passage from Psalm 103 that caught my attention:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. (vv 8-11, emphasis mine)

There, nestled in the middle of the section (it continues for several verses) about God’s compassion, mercy, lovingkindness, is the same line Isaiah used to describe how high God’s ways and thoughts are above ours: as high as the heavens are above the earth.

I realize now I’d never taken the idea of God’s transcendence to its logical conclusion. If He is higher than we, if His thoughts are, His ways are, then it stands to reason that what forms Him, what defines Him as a person — His traits — also will be higher than ours. Hence His love will be higher than ours, His compassion higher than ours, His patience, His forgiveness, His justice, and His mercy — or as some translations have it, His lovingkindness.

Sometimes God’s lovingkindness mystifies me, and sometimes His justice does the same. Why, for example, did David who had Uriah killed become known as a man after God’s own heart? Apart from God’s mercy and forgiveness, it doesn’t make sense. And why, when Ahab let his wife Jezebel murder Naboth in order to take his property, and God said Ahab and his descendants would be removed from the throne, why, I ask, did God relent and tell Ahab he would leave him on the throne after all? In fact, why did one of his sons ruled for twelve years after Ahab’s death? God was merciful, and I’m pretty sure I would have been inclined to throw the book at the whole family. At once. No delay.

Yet how grateful I am for God’s delays in my life. He gives me mercy and help in time of need. He doesn’t slam His door in my face but graciously answers prayer. Over and over and over.

So after thinking about God’s transcendent mercy, I logged onto the computer this morning to handle email. First up was a note that agent Lee Hough had a journal entry posted. For those who may not know, Lee, an agent with Alive Communications was diagnosed in April or May with a brain tumor — an especially deadly kind. Here’s an excerpt from one of Lee’s recent entries that explained the data he received at his first meeting with his oncologist — a Dr. Cheerful, so named for the upbeat way he presented a trial procedure to Lee:

Soon we’re cha cha’ing out of the office all grins when I asked, “Could I have a copy of the report?” I wanted to read more happy details about my soon-to-be prolonged life. Dr. Cheerful made me a copy.

“Glioblastoma, the most common primary brain tumor in adults, is usually rapidly fatal.”

That was the opening line of the report. Bluebirds started dropping dead all around me. Don’t panic. A couple of paragraphs later it said, “. . . survival is generally less than one year from the time of the diagnosis.” No “Happily ever after” there. Instead I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning in doom. And then, hallelujah, I finally got to the graph page, a beacon of hope in this medical shop of horrors. The graph will throw me a lifeline of good news. But bad news had another twist of the knife. The glioblastoma cancer patients who participated in this trial? When the researcher followed up with them after 28 months, “480 patients (84 percent) had died.” Now I’m completely undone, horrified. First for those “patients” – people just like me whose hopes were undoubtedly just like mine. Second, because of the scalding realization that I’m not reading a “report” anymore, I’m reading my obituary.

The coup de grace was delivered just before the graph. I was still holding out hope in the doctor’s fabled “significant increase in life span.” And here it finally came. The total life span gain of the simultaneous therapy approach: “The median survival benefit was 2.5 months.”

Wait. Are you serious? Not 10 years or 5; not even 2.5 years. 75 days.

December 2 Lee had his first scan after the treatment. Again in his words:

Because grade 4 glioblastoma tumors are so hard to kill and so good at killing, the doctor wants me to have an MRI every three months. If the Lord chooses to heal me, it appears that I’ll rediscover that truth in three-month increments for the rest of my life. Starting with December 2nd.

And the first results are in. Lee is cancer free. Will he be cancer free again in three months? If God so chooses. His mercy, after all, is transcendent.

Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 6:04 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. Wow, Becky! I am so happy (and relieved) for Lee, that he’s cancer free right now. I’m praying that he’s one of the lucky ones who stays that way.

    A friend of mine is also going through a very similar journey. God has been very good to her and her family: this is her second Christmas since diagnosis, but it will probably be her last. They’re trying to slow the latest round of tumors with Avastin. I don’t know that it’s helping much.


  2. Moving post. Yours and his. And thank God he is merciful far beyond what we whip up with our selfish hearts. And even when we die, God will mercifully take us to himself and he will wipe every tear away.


  3. Krysti, a little over ten years ago a friend of mine in her forties died of brain cancer. She was a committed Christian, but God chose not to heal her. And that too is undoubtedly His mercy — perhaps His severe mercy, as one author called it. It’s not easy to go with someone through the shadow of death. May God give you the grace you need to hold your friend’s hand and love her to the end.



  4. Thanks for adding your thoughts, Sally. I agree that God is merciful beyond our understanding — which is why everything we pray for isn’t ours. God spares us from the razor blades we ask to play with, and He takes us home when we’d rather stay out past our bedtime.

    I don’t mean to trivialize death with that metaphor. Rather, I think it helps me understand God’s kindness as my loving Heavenly Father who I can trust. He really does know more about this life and the next, and I can only think He restores those believers whose work is not yet finished.



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