So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

(Hebrews 4:16 NLT)


For the past three years I have chosen a “Word for the Year.” It may have been chosen out of desperation or because I wanted more of it in my life. Or I wanted to show more of it to others: my words — Hope, Joy, and Grace. In typical Gerry-fashion, I researched and found devotionals, books, and apps to study and find inspiration.

But this year of Grace, I noticed that the words “grace” and “mercy” were often linked in the same Bible verse. Are they the same? What is the difference? Why are they linked?

No, they are not the same. After looking them both up in the dictionary, the way I remember the difference is that mercy is not getting what you deserve while grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Our church has been studying the book of Jonah and his story is a good one to illustrate both mercy and grace.

Jonah completely disobeyed God’s instructions to go to Nineveh to warn the people and instead headed in the exact opposite direction. A terrifying storm overtook the boat that he was on and eventually the sailors threw him overboard to save their own skins. To their relief, the storm calmed and they were safe.

But Jonah? Mercy arrived in the form of a great fish so that instead of drowning, he was swallowed by the fish and allowed to live and think about his decisions. Grace showed up when he was vomited onto dry ground so that he had a second chance to obey God and head to Nineveh to rescue the city with God’s warning. The people of Nineveh listened and a great revival occurred and God spared the city (the same Nineveh in recent news reports.)

Another word for mercy is kindness. Of course, the ultimate example of grace is eternal life because Christ took the punishment that I deserved.

In doing a little research I found:

Grace is something we all need, but we cannot earn it or give it to others. It comes only through the sacrifice of Christ. Mercy, though, is something we need at various points in our lives, and is something we are expected to show toward others. 

As we think about mercy and grace, today’s verse reminds us to come confidently before the throne of God to express our love, worship, failures, and needs. He is there to offer kindness and unmerited favor because He loves us so much.

Every day, we have opportunities to do the same—show mercy and grace.