We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. – Romans 12:-6-8

When I took a Spiritual Gifts test in high school, I wanted my result to be Leader. Evangelical culture values the hero, celebrates the leader, and worships the Man of God up front. In our weird little hierarchy of heroes, clearly the most spiritual among us would be the leaders, right? After repeated multiple choice testings, my own results always came out as Prophecy and Teaching. I wasn’t thrilled but hey, at least it wasn’t the gift of mercy.

Mercy just seemed like such a lame spiritual gift to those of us out to change the world. Who could change the world with compassion and kindness? Behind the scenes isn’t quite enough for a Big Big God with Big Big Plans.

Talk about missing the point, eh?

bless the merciful :: sarah bessey

Bless the merciful.

Bless the hospital chaplains who cry and pray in trauma rooms with the scared and the hurting. Bless the older woman who folds the young mother’s laundry. Bless the young red-head who brought me muffins and coffee during this week of sickness. Bless the father who scrapes puke up off the floor only after he’s gently washed and dressed and comforted the sick child.

Bless the ones who cry too much and feel too much. Bless the wounded healers.

Bless the kind ones, who speak words of life and gentleness. Bless the benefit-of-the-doubt givers, the one-more-chance lavishers. Bless the comforters and the kleenex-passers. Bless the walkers-in-another’s-shoes. Bless the wheelchair pushers. Bless the ones there waiting after the chips fall, and the edifice crumbles, and the truth comes out. Bless them for their grace for both the flyers and the thud-ers, for the fury and the glory.

Bless the ones who sling grace, and bandage wounds. Bless them for they give dignity to the rest of us. Bless them because they see us and they love us anyway.

Bless them for standing in our thin places between too-much and not-enough, the places where our hearts are breaking and our fears are manifesting and we are so scared and so alone, bless them for being the ones that show up in the fault lines to hold our hands and pray and weep with those who weep.

Bless them for their patience, for their supernatural ability to stop rolling-their-eyes, for their ability to be present instead of checking out for something more fun. Bless them for their joy in the face of suffering, for the patience in the teeth of our never-going-to-change, and their faith in our story.

Bless them for their heart to ease the suffering, to smooth the edges, widen the roads. Bless them for their cups of cold water, and their plates of food, for their prison visiting, for their preemie-baby hat knitting, for the nursery rocking so tired mamas can worship. Bless them for the healing work of their ministry. Bless them when they smell of salt tears and someone else’s shit. Bless the merciful because they are, so often, Jesus with skin on, for the rest of us.

Bless the merciful as they carry our own burdens with us, and we cannot know how low they are bowed with the grief of the whole world groaning for justice and peace. Bless the ones who serve without fanfare or book deals or conference attention. Bless the ones who love their children, day after day after day, without thought of a speaking career or a MOPS invitation. Bless the ones who care for the aging and the dying, for those making the way a bit smoother for the families left behind. Bless the ones who hold the hands of the poor and broken and you and me. Bless the ones running right towards the hurting, instead of running away like the rest of us.

Bless them because it takes more guts to be merciful, compassionate, and kind than we could have ever imagined. The older we get, the more we value the kind, the merciful, the compassionate, because the more we realise that most of us, almost all of us, are getting rather lonely and tired, and we need a cup of cold water and a bit of grace, and dignity, and kindness clears the air.


If you care to comment, I’d love to hear about a person of mercy in your life. Let’s celebrate the merciful today.

In which I share what I'm into (January 2013)
In which I will not be silenced
thank you for sharing...
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  • Emily_Maynard

    Oh Sarah. I wanted to be a Leader, too.

    Discovering my Mercy heart has been such a weighted gift, this opening up to tears and vulnerability and hurting what seems “more” than others. I shut it down and turned it off and hated when a bit of it would squeak out.

    But what I’m discovering now, I think, at this part of my Speaking Up, is that Leader isn’t a separate category. It’s the label we give to those of us who are using our other gifts well.

    • Aaand tears, both of you. (Though I’ve weirdly been told I have the gifts of mercy and prophecy. Say what?!)

      • Emily_Maynard

        Me too, Dani! I think that’s an amazing combination because it helps you speak the truth boldly and with tremendous compassion. I see you doing that.

    • “Leader isn’t a separate category. It’s the label we give to those of us who are using our gifts well.” So, so well said, Emily. Thank you.

  • Sarah Bessey, this is absolutely true in all of its poetic word and glory. The people I have come to admire most are not the “front” of the church, but the quiet servants who bless simply to bless. Who give of themself in ways that neither receives much praise (which makes it all the more powerful). Thank you for your tribute to them! I hope that one day people can look at my life and unbeknowst to me, I’ve become “mercy” with my heart, hands, and feet. Thanks from the bottom of my mercy needing heart!

  • Sarah, THANK YOU for today’s post. for so long, i rejected the gift of mercy in me; i viewed my bleeding heart as a weakness, instead of the beautiful gift it is. your words were like water for my thirsty soul today. thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Phwew… Fresh air.
    My shoulders just relaxed and I might’a whispered a “thank you God for Sarah Bessey’s words. I’ve been waiting for them.”

  • Just tears today. You somehow bring beauty and grace to wiping shit.

  • What beautiful words, Sarah! THANK YOU. I’ve always recognized those tendencies in my heart, but nevertheless, paced towards being a “leader.” I tried it out but it’s not what flows naturally from my soul. Thank you for recognizing the merciful today and for assuring me that this is who God designed me to be and I should not resist it but fully embrace the gift of mercy in me. I felt my body loosening up too as I read through this, like my body was finally settling into what it’s meant to be but hasn’t been because it’s been trying to be someone else. Sighhhh. Bless your heart.

  • Valerie

    …and Bless those of us who ugly cry while reading your beautiful words on your equally beautiful blog.
    So powerful! So thankful. Blessing to you Sarah Bessey.

  • I trust you because you bless the merciful. So many have held their tongues toward me and have held my hair back as I’ve suffered for consequence and for glory, both. Those who have been low aren’t afraid to be low with others, it seems.


  • Korrine Britton

    Amen. I believe those with the gift of mercy do lead. They lead us straight to the loving heart of our Merciful Father.

  • Love this Sarah. THank you.

    ps. I was one o’ those high on mercy too. and i thought it meant a whole host of things i realize now it didn’t mean. praise God.

  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    Oh, how I wish I had more mercy in my own set of gifts…

  • JennaDeWitt

    Good stuff here.

    Also, prophecy and teaching SO fit your blog here. And I don’t just say that because my little test said the same (though I must admit, the names “teacher” and “prophet” scare me a bit… those are words with big meanings)

  • Megan

    Thank you for this post. I’ve struggled with my personality for a long time. I’m a tender-hearted and compassionate woman. Even as a young girl, emotional things in movies or books would tear me apart. I wondered why God made this way, because for a long time I didn’t know how to properly care for myself. As I’ve grown older, God’s taken care of me and shows me how to live within my own skin. I know that he will show me as I go further in this journey, how he will use me to make an impact in this world. Your words were another reminder of that. Thank you, Sarah.

    • chels

      I’m the same way. what do you mean He’s shown you to live within your own skin

  • I re-took a spiritual gifts assessment last night, and I think it might have been the first time I was completely honest when taking it. Because as much as I want to be that person running towards the hurting, I’m much more likely to do be the “practical helper”. It feels good to finally be real and find out where my gifts actually are (and where they most certainly are not). Blessed are the merciful. Wow, what a gift.

  • Kathryn

    My gift was “faith”. I was so disappointed. I was like what the heck, man?! I wanted something glamorous as well. However, my sister and my adopted teenager are both very merciful people. It is good to have them in my life to remind me to be compassionate. To remind me of how my words might sound to others. To remind me to listen. To remind me that it’s okay to hug. We all need those merciful people in our lives, don’t we?


  • As they say in the Dominican Republic: AMEN! Gosh so true, so true…I want to be merciful, I yearn to run towards THAT! You’re so amazing Sarah! And isn’t it so perfectly God’s perfect-ness that we all have our own gifts, and we’re on this hugely exciting journey-like-a-roller-coaster to find and seek them out and USE them!

  • Leigh Ann

    My beloved 54 year old uncle passed away unexpectedly this past Friday morning leaving behind his wife of 33 years, 4 awesome children, and 3 beautiful grandchildren (plus 2 more in the womb). At the moment, there isn’t “a person of mercy” in my life – there is A WHOLE COMMUNITY of mercy. Bless each and every single one of the over 700 people who stood in line at my uncle’s wake to simply give my aunt a hug – each one of those passed along the love of Jesus and gave her strength. Bless the pastor who was grieving the loss of his good friend but was still able to deliver one of the most powerful messages I’ve ever heard at my uncle’s funeral. Bless each of his children as they spoke about how their dad touched their lives. Bless all of the people who delivered food, cleaned up after meals, and swept the carport. Bless the widow who donated a funeral plot so my aunt didn’t have to worry about finding and paying for a place to lay her husband. Bless everyone who texted, facebooked, tweeted, and passed along their condolences. Bless them all – because I can’t imagine dealing with the tragic death of my Uncle without them showering my family with the beautiful love of Christ.

  • Mary

    My nature is mercy, but my mercy has been corrupted by the push to be something I am not. I have been working to recover and nourish my merciful, compassionate spirit over the last few years. Your words encourage me.

  • Candace

    I guess I have waited for this blog post my whole life. My gift is mercy…only, like you and your gifts, I never wanted it. I have cursed my personality, my sensitivity, my too-easily-offended, my tears that come too easily, my breaking heart over every.little.thing. I have questioned God. Why me? I have wondered how I can bear it…the hurt, the poor, the needy, the broken. Just in the past few years i have had a few glimpses of WHY God created me this way. But I still don’t appreciate it fully and like this post does. I want to. Am praying I will someday. 🙂 Fearfully and wonderfully made…yes!! Thank you for sharing this. I may need to print it, frame it and put it on my mirror.

  • Sarah

    Thank you. The merciful need the prophets and teachers to put words to their actions and dignity to the everyday.

  • I relate specifically with the line: Bless the walkers-in-another’s-shoes. That’s what I try to do. I call myself “devil’s advocate” but I hate that term. To me it’s really about loving people by seeing them for who they truly are and understanding we are who we are because of the unique experiences we’ve lived through. No two people will ever be alike, so we need to try to see life from other people’s perspectives. Once I know someone’s story, everything starts to make so much more sense and I have a better understanding of how to love that person. I don’t always succeed, but I’m trying…

  • glory, sarah. glory to God.

  • A specific person of mercy in my life is my sister. I’ve gone through a rough time in the last few years and she always made a point to let me know she was thinking of me even though she’s over 1,000 miles away. She would send flowers, notes, necklaces, even cake pops! Always at the right moment, just when I needed a reminder that I wasn’t alone and that I was loved. She is a ray of sunshine in my life! So thankful for her love and compassion.

  • Bethany Zaiman

    Oh my. Thank you. I’m a bit speechless at how much these words mean to me. Thank you so very much for sharing them.

  • Shannon

    Reading this with tears in my eyes because this is both my amazing mom and my beautiful sister who serve unceasingly behind the scenes and never fail to run right towards the hurting when I am headed the other way. SO grateful for their example to me and their impact on so many lives.

  • My mentor Kathy Cottrell is mercy and, for me as prophet, I feel safe with her, especially since my gifting tends to be uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. Without Mercies, the Prophets may run amok. 😉

  • everybody in my mission organization fits the bill here. i have been running around trying to convince everyone to write books (because hey, books got me into the whole urban poor missions gig) but these blasted people just keep serving. the mercy of the servants of the kingdom has hit me hard, square between the eyes, and has humbled me more than i can say.

  • damn. girl. you just wrote that. bam. (lovely, deep, beautiful words!)

  • Aimee

    Oh, Sarah Bessey, bless you. This is beautiful.

    Last year was a valley for me, and this year so far is a valley only slightly less deep. The blessing in the pain (and, isn’t there always…) has been the people that have come into my life that have been these mercies to me. The sister who has stayed up late on the phone just saying “yes, I know, I’m so sorry”. The friend who has invited me to her house so that she might put her arms around me and let me cry on her carpet. The church member who stood next to me at coffee, a silent strength because she knew it was hard for me to stand there on my own. Hands and feet when I needed it and when I least expected it.

    So it seems for me a lesson as I get older and experience more that the leaders and the teachers and the prophesizers are important. But we NEED those who show day-to-day mercies. And if I can, every so often, perform just one of the mercies you write about here, I will be doing what I’m put here to do.

    Thank you for writing this so lovingly!

  • alana aka laney

    I believe my Gma shows mercy to others b/c she goes out of her way all the time for others. Esp at Christmas time. She gives people gifts just because she loves giving. She does the twelve days of christmas for those who are unable and dont have family close by that can shower them with gifts. she also does that for family too including her siblings. She’s just an all around good hearted person who loves to give and that’s exactly what i got mine from.

  • Bless the ones who running right towards the hurting, instead of running away like the rest of us.

    Yes yes yes.
    I so love those in my life who aren’t scared of my honesty.

    Also – after I had our boy, when my health completely crashed, people from our church offered to do our ironing and help out with meals. This is perhaps unremarkable, as many churches do this. But ours just went on doing it. We had a couple of months of meals, and 8 months of ironing, they just kept showing up. Lord, bless those who keep showing up.

    • Oh – and this?
      “Bless the ones who cry too much and feel too much. Bless the wounded healers.”

      Made me cry. Thank you,

  • The tears keep coming as I read this. Just a couple of weeks ago I felt a strong tug on my heart to begin talking to God and asking him to make more clear how he has gifted me. I lived for years with false humility, which was actually insecurity and self-hate, believe I had no gifts, or if I did, I shouldn’t say so. God’s been in a long process, changing all of this, and it’s becoming more clear than ever that the gift he has given me is mercy. Needless to say, the timing of this post for me is quite divine. Thank you, sister.

  • Sonya

    Thank you, thank you for this post Sarah! I really needed to read this right at this moment. I have always known since I was young that I was given the gift of mercy. Heck, I even became a social worker because of it! But in the last few years I have found myself hiding within myself, and hiding from this gift. It is such a waste I know. This post, along with some other things in my life, have inspired me to begin whole-heartedly sharing this gift once again.

  • Cara

    I want to echo what others have said, that “mercy” was given to me as a gift but it has been hard to accept. I am just starting to learn what it is and how to use it. Thanks for your lovely words reminding me that a bleeding heart can drive us to acts of love, even small ones, that are used by God in powerful ways.

  • pastordt

    Thank you, thank you for this. I had just finished typing a comment reply to my own post over at ADF today and used the word ‘mercy’ – in regard to our own selves, at every stage of life. We need to start there, I think – as you so beautifully model for us – accepting who we are, warts and all. When I was pastoring there was a small circle of women who quietly created beautiful knitted or crocheted prayer shawls – they would hang them in a grocery bag over the door handle to my office. And I would take them and place them around those who were sick, bereaved, who had a brand new baby. Tangible pieces of merciful love. So I thank Nina and Alice and Gayle and Karen, who started it all, and any others whose anonymous gift of love said ‘mercy’ to another.

  • Melissa

    Lovely as always, lady.

    As one who tests as a “leader” on those types of tests: the older I get, the more I wonder whether any of the natural “leaders” know where they’re supposed to be leading people to, because I sure don’t right now. The merciful are the ones in my life who help to answer that question.

  • Yes, yes & yes to mercy. I can specifically think of miss MaryAnne. She is mercy to my family. One Sunday afternoon I sat crying in my car with some time away asking God I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I cried lots you know, 3-4 mo postpartum. Next day the Spirit of God breathed life in that miraculous moment with MaryAnne whom I didn’t know that well. She said, “I don’t know how this sounds, but I feel strongly that God wants me to help you, do laundry, watch your daughters, clean your house, hold your baby.”

    Needless to say, she is my mercy. Listens without judgement, did our laundry, gave me daily calls & took Cadence one day a week while Veronica was at school to give me a chance to create again. Quiet, prayer laden saint of a woman.

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  • Thank you for this Sarah. Another beautiful post, and I feel like it calls up the “mercy” in all of us. One of my big dilemmas with the “spiritual gifts” conversation is that it makes it seem like, if mercy isn’t my spiritual gift (or prophecy, discernment, leadership, etc), I shouldn’t have to (or can’t) act merciful/discerning/prophetic/etc. I know it comes easier to some than others, but I think we’re all called to be mercy givers. Thank you for reminding us what that looks like. Appreciate you.

  • Peggy

    Sigh …mercy is part of what I call the purple martyrdom. The brokenness of self recognizes the brokenness of others … and usually manifests itself in tears. I was glad to see that other chaplains/pastors cry during hospital visits. I always felt somehow less because I couldn’t hold my tears. I’ll never forget my Sr. Pastor describing mercy much like you have here … until he said: “you can see mercy leaking out of the corners of pastor Peggy’s eyes as she prays with people at the altar.”

    It has been a long journey for me to keep praying, teaching, preaching through tears, but it’s just how I roll now.

    Be blessed.

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  • Audree

    Thank you for validating my gift and putting practical ways to use it into words! and even chastising me for parts that i dont want to do (be in the nursery, watch other’s kids, take care of old and sick people).

  • Nicole Joshua

    Your post gives me permission to honour my mother-in-law, a woman who has more space in her heart for others than for herself, a woman who loves the aged and the mentally disabled, who can always be counted on to take the elderly grocery shopping, who babysits her nieces and nephews, who sits outside on a hot summer’s day to watch over the children frolicking in the pool, who cooked my favourite home-made food – cabbage stew – when I came home from a holiday filled with restaurant food, who will lock up after my domestic has cleaned my house so that I can be at work, who will sacrifice her birthday money/perfume/bubble bath when her daughter needed wither of those. My mother-in-law is a woman with the gift of mercy, and for that I love her deeply and give praise to God for her in our lives.

  • Did I tell you how very much I loved this? I read it last week & I’ve been soul-cataloging and counting thanks for the mercy givers in my life – I started typing them out here in this comment box and went back and deleted them all, because there are so many. Grateful (as always) for these words here, Sarah Bessey. Thank you.

  • Your description sounds exactly like my mother-in-law! She is a wonderful woman – gentle, compassionate, quick to serve, forever selfless. I admire her in so many ways.

  • Oh, how I love this! There are so many courageous souls whose quiet, behind-the-scenes heists of kindness have left an indelible mark upon me, far deeper than any words I have heard spoken from a pulpit. They have truly been Christ incarnate and I don’t think I would have any faith today were it not for them. Bravo, Sarah. Thank you for celebrating the merciful hearts.

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