the quality of mercy is not strained…

i have a friend who has demons in his head.

oh, you can call it whatever modern scientific terminology you want — schizophrenia, bi-polar or borderline personality disorder, or just mental illness —  but the truth is, they are demons.

they came and went. when he had wrestled them down, he was a wonderful man — a loyal friend who loved to laugh, a Jesus-lover, an i’ll-do-anything-for-you type of guy. he drove a bus full of hurting kids and loved them up every day, talking, laughing, and giving them little presents…he loved life then — God, his wife, his friends, his dog…

but when those demons were legion, he did odd things: quit his long time job because he thought no one liked him; left the church where people did love him, so he could go alone to a church where no one knew him; kept busy to the frantic pace where no one could keep up with him, just so he wouldn’t have to be still and hear the voices.

we, who don’t struggle with those kind of demons, can’t begin to fathom the darkness. so we try not to think about it.

until something unspeakable happens.

and even then, we still can’t fathom it.  over and over i think, what could i have done? what if we’d just called them that night not too long ago when we were thinking of asking them if they wanted to go to a concert with us….

instead, we went to the concert by ourselves. three days after her funeral.

i cry out to God. these were your beloved children… isn’t satan supposed to be defeated?

the sun is shining today and i am longing for rain. i can’t shake the grief.

even though i know there are others struggling just as much.

even though i know she is home with Jesus and at peace.

we are still here wondering what we could have done to keep this tragedy from happening. wondering why a just God allowed something so awful to happen. trying to find something that will ease the pain and make it okay to walk out in the light again.

it isn’t a matter of forgiveness. i’ve forgiven him. he’s my friend.

it isn’t a matter of always expecting blessings. i don’t. i’ve lived with sorrow, unanswered prayer, and i own plenty of sins.

aren’t we all just one cracked neuron short of big sin?

but grace…

because of grace i don’t have to worry about my own sins. for through nothing i’ve done, through grace, they’ve been wiped clean. all i had to do is believe that Jesus died for me and my record is erased. this prisoner has been set free.

so how do i pray?

the verses that usually give me comfort sound like platitudes to me.

oddly, the verses that give me the most comfort are stark:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God — Romans 3:23 

there is no one righteous, not even one — Isaiah 59:1 

the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise — Psalm 51:17.

but this one comforts me too: for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more — Hebrews 8:12

and so i pray for mercy.

may it be so.


The title of this post is from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. I had to learn it in Miss Closser’s 9th grade English class. It didn’t mean much to me then. But it does now… in part it reads:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest.
It becomes the throned monarch better than
      His crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty 
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.

12 thoughts on “the quality of mercy is not strained…

  1. Mental illness is difficult to understand and it is near impossible to help those who are suffering unless they want to be helped. Sorry you are feeling the grief of such a cruel situation.


  2. Very powerful. You should include this in the new church newsletter. There will be some – you can guess – who will not like the thought that demons can inhabit the lives of the chosen but it is what it is. So grateful for your wisdom and insight and your beautiful writing.


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