Becoming Vessels of Mercy
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove
“What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
–Romans 9:22-24 (ESV)
Years ago, I was working toward the goal of becoming a Specialist in Fitness Nutrition. As a competing athlete, I was passionate about how the right nutrition could not only fuel but help shape the human form into a lean, powerful, performing machine. I put out my shingle for business.
Unbeknownst to me, grievous events would quickly alter my course. Personal injury brought my physical abilities to a halt and the business relationship I had built with a gym owner terminated. I was devastated.
Over a year later, out of the blue, I received a call from a local recovery center looking for a nutrition teacher for their program. It wasn’t what I intended for myself, but knowing it was an opportunity to work in my field, I accepted.
Within the Relapse Prevention Program, dozens of women were recovering not only from substance use, but, more sizably, traumatic life events. Their stories were filled with abusive horrors that were foreign to my life experience. Because of my naïveté, I did not understand why God would put me in a place so completely outside of my league.
These women taught me strength training of another sort and I became educated by their lessons. I felt as though I was being shaped for something completely different than expected.
That’s when news of sexual abuse within my family territory struck. The enemy hit my base. In the shock wave, I remembered the stories told to me by my students and I knew... I knew to my very core...that God had been preparing me beforehand for this, as a vessel of mercy.
In Romans 9, Paul addresses some of the very same questions that surface in the lives of believers of his time:
“Is God fair?”
“Has God failed?”
“Am I just a puppet...a victim on the whims of God?”
Paul uses the metaphor of two vessels, one being an angry vessel (“vessel of wrath”) and the other a compassionate vessel (“vessel of mercy”), both of God’s making. Opportunity is given to both vessels to be tools for the Maker’s goodwill.
The Greek word for wrath in Romans 9:22 is ““orgé,” from the verb oragō meaning, “to teem, to swell.” This implies not a sudden outburst, but rather a growing agitation.
The vessel of wrath might be considered a crockpot of indignation, slowly breaking down its internal contents with constant heat. But, according to Romans 9:23-24, certain vessels have heeded God’s call and are filled with mercy. Like a bowl of fruit sitting on the counter, always available for the snacking.
Seeking God’s will can often look like letting go of the specific plans we have made and accepting with trust the opportunities that are offered. Being malleable under direction is a choice. Trust is a choice. And mercy might just be the consequence of accepting the offering.
I could have remained angry, stubbornly holding fast to my goal and demanding God be fair, but I would have been unprepared for what was ahead of me. Instead, I’m grateful for the very specific direction God was turning me toward, putting roadblocks on one path and opening up a new route. Without the job, without the broken ladies I was working with, I would not have had the mind frame of compassion nor the skills of grace for the marred ones in my personal sphere.
Look into the story of your life. Does it feel like God has failed you or been unjust? Is anger the temperature of your heart? God has mercy on you, my friend! His hand on you is compassionate. God knows your future and wishes to prepare you for it. Respond to His touch. You will be eternally grateful for His filling of mercy.
Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior.
She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.
Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.
Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.
In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.