By Sylvia Schroeder
Lovingkindness. I linger over the word like a morning cappuccino. I lean my head back, close my eyes, and savor it. “Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You” (Psalm 143:8 NASB).
What does lovingkindness sound like in the morning—or at any time? Is it in the voices of my grandchildren playing or the music in the background? Could his lovingkindness be in the quick good-bye kiss from my husband when he leaves for work? I wonder if I recognize it when I do hear it.
The longing of David resonates with my longing. The psalmist was having some severe issues with people when he penned those words. Surrounding verses paint a picture of relationships gone awry. “Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart is appalled within me,” David cries out in verse 4. In verse 11 he says, “For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.”
Into my quiet musing blasts an unwelcome image. Like David, I have hurt inside me. My heart feels scabbed, like the crusted wound on a child’s knee that breaks into tiny raw crevices.
David called them his enemies. Mine I call just regular people—good-willed but hurtful people. I am sad these relationships have gone wrong. The truth is, I’m not sure what to do with the hurt left behind. Where should I put it and how does it heal?
I’ve forgiven a hundred times, put it away, and given it to Jesus. But like a yo-yo, hurt comes back at the slightest trigger of memory or contact. When I spot them in a room, right and wrong duel swordfight-style inside my gut. I try for kindness. I determine to forgive, and I feel I have until the slightest touch makes the sore raw and open again.
I avoid them, unwilling to admit that every time I see them, it is as if they each wear a shirt labeled H-U-R-T across its front. We’ve tried unraveling the story, facing the grievances, but the results produced even more hurt. In the craggy edges of unresolved story, the gorge widens and pain burrows deep.
And then lovingkindness interrupts my morning.
Translated from the Hebrew word checed, the English word lovingkindness means “goodness, kindness, faithfulness.” But no single English word encapsulates the whole beauty of its meaning. Loyal-love, faithful-mercy, steadfast-love all express pieces of God’s divine, inexpressible, persistent love toward his people, bending toward us in tenderness.
David’s situation does not change, but in the middle of it, God inserts tender compassion in the form of truth. Sandwiched between David’s relational issues and his heart’s anguish, lovingkindness pours like balm onto his messy emotions. God’s lovingkindness brings David to declare, “For I trust in You.”
Can I, like David, lift my eyes from the people, from my situation, and from the emotions so turbulent in my soul? For trust comes when truth is established. My Father’s loyal-love has purpose in my pain, for my pain. I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to waste its hurt.
What I sorely lack toward others, the Father extends to me.
I am brought again to the cross, where Jesus demonstrated his undeniable, incomparable, unmerited love and forgiveness to me. Surely I can trust him to step into the dark clefts of my life.
How does mercy show up despite feelings that betray? I can purpose to think the best and not assume evil intent. I can stop the reels of injustice my mind plays and replace them with God’s Word. I can try to show kindness by going out of my way to greet them and display interest in their lives and family. I can show care and compassion. I can persistently pursue peace in my own heart and attitude, even when it doesn’t come naturally. I can bend toward them, as Christ has done for me.
I imagine covering the H-U-R-T shirt with another shirt. On it in bold script, L-O-V-I-N-G-K-I-N-D-N-E-S-S is spelled across its front. In my mind I tug the new lovingkindness shirt down over the old hurt shirt. Hurt is covered by lovingkindness. I determine to practice the exchange the next time I see them.
Can it be that the Great Physician himself is touching my sore spots to produce healing only he can? Purposeful restoration comes from Sovereign care. I may not see it yet, but like David, I will cling to truth and I will trust. I will discipline myself to envision hurt dressed in the tender mercy of Christ, as set in my path for a good purpose.
I smile because I believe I have heard his lovingkindness this morning.
Sylvia Schroeder and her husband care for missionaries world-wide with Avant Ministries. Captivated by God’s Word she writes with the perspective of someone who lived and raised four children overseas. Twelve grandchildren in her heart often wiggle onto her pages. She blogs at When the House is Quiet.
Photograph © Leon Biss, used with permission