I have a very good friend who is from Jamaica. He is one of the most laid-back people I have ever met. One day we were playing racquetball at the local YMCA and I hit a ball with all my might. My aim was slightly off, and the ball hit my friend right in the middle of his back. Oh, I forgot to mention that my friend is very muscular and bigger than me. When I saw the ball head to the middle of his back, I began to brace for the wrath that I was sure was going to come from my friend. Wrath that would have come from me if the tables were turned. I will never forget as I saw his body tense up and he stood straight up … he turned and smiled at me with a very broad smile.
I grew up being very competitive in sports, and always pushing myself to the limits of my abilities. This sometimes drove me to a bad temper, and to losing my temper often. I have always admired my Jamaican friend and his even-temperament. Today I read Psalm 103, and I read that “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8). When I read this verse, it made me smile, because I am realized that God, Who has ever right to pour out His wrath on me, is the One Who is gracious!
I have always admired the calm spirit of my Jamaican friend. He has a way of taking tense situations in stride and handling them with grace that I wish I had in my life. But His easy-going personality doesn’t even come close to the grace and mercy that God shows me every day. I offend the holy character of God every day, and every morning His mercies are new for me for that day. Even though my sin would anger any other person I would offend here on earth, my Heavenly Father chooses to be slow to anger. He doesn’t only have a bit of mercy, He is plenteous in mercy!
What this verse says to me today is that if my Heavenly Father, Who knows every aspect of my sin, can be merciful and gracious … slow to anger and plenteous in mercy … I need to demonstrate this more regularly in my life. I believe that God made us in His image, which means that there is a possibility for me to act in righteous ways, even though I often fail Him. I want to live today in a way that those who are around me will see the impact of the time I have spent with God in His Word and in prayer. It is not possible for me to produce these characteristics apart from the help of the Holy Spirit of God. I want to yield to Him today so that others will recognize that I am His child because of being merciful and gracious rather than judgmental and cruel. I want to be slow to anger rather that short-tempered and angry. I want to take it slow … like my Heavenly Father.