The Dirty Gospel : A Severe Mercy

I’d like you all to meet my friend that I have never met. Well, never met in person. We found each other on Instagram somehow and I began following her story through her pictures. I started The Dirty Gospel series a few weeks ago. Last week I talked about finding God in the midst of loss and depression. I was overjoyed that Bethany agreed to let us in on what the dirty gospel means to her. This week Bethany is sharing her story. 


Many years ago, I read the book  A Severe Mercy and it shook me. It is among a handful of books that shaped who I am today.

I remember reading it and thinking this is the kind of marriage I want to have. A marriage with no “creeping separateness”. I wanted a marriage where we always remained open with each other. I wanted a marriage where we were friends as well as lovers and just loved being together. I got the impression from the book that they had that. And I remember sobbing when the writers wife died.

His conclusion in the end of the book is that his wife dying was God’s severe mercy to him, because it was her death which led him to a relationship with God. It was in her death that he was able to find God in a way he hadn’t been able to with his wife alive.

In the past year I have had two such severe mercies. Two struggles which have come into my life that I never would have wanted, but that have shaped my relationship with God in ways that nothing else could have.


When I was in college I begged God not to give me a child with special needs – seriously prayed nearly every day for a year that He wouldn’t!

I thought if God did allow me to have a child with special needs He would be cruel, sadistic, and unloving.

Now I stand at the other end of that prayer, not only having a daughter with special needs but with severe special needs – a daughter who ( according to specialists) is unlikely to ever walk, talk or live on her own.

I can see clearly, from where I am now, that God giving me this child wasn’t cruel –  it was deeply loving. It was His mercy and grace to me.

I want her. I can’t imagine life without her. She has showed me, in ways I never could have understood without her, that God is love. She is a severe, and at times painful, grace to me. But she is still grace.


When my husband was diagnosed with stage three melanoma there was one prayer that was never far from my lips, “God, don’t let it progress to stage four. Please, Lord!”.

Two months ago, God wrapped His arms around me and whispered His presence into my heart as I read the PET scan that told us my husband’s cancer had indeed progressed to stage four.

And I thought of that book I had read so many years before.

Even in this, God shows His love.

The Gospel is messy in my life because God cannot be controlled. He continually does things I don’t want Him to do. He isn’t made in our image.

God hasn’t come to me in the ways I’ve wanted Him to, but He’s come in the ways I’ve needed Him to. —> click to tweet

This doesn’t make Him unloving, it makes Him GOD.

In all of our lives there comes a time when we pray, “Please, God, anything but ____”.  There comes a day when something happens that we absolutely didn’t want, that we don’t know how we’ll face, something that we don’t understand.

The same happened for Jesus.

Christ Himself prayed that very prayer in the garden, “If there’s any other way…” Oh, God, please not this. Anything but this.

It is the ultimate severe mercy for all of us, and even for Jesus Himself, that God answered His prayer for another way with “no”.

So, today I am grateful for severe mercies. I’m thankful for the heavy, messy, and sometimes painful love of God.

Rejoicing in the journey,


*** If you consider yourself a praying person, please pause and say a prayer for Bethany’s husband Bryan. He is continuing to fight stage 4 melanoma ***

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photoBethany Stedman is a mom and writer who often wishes she was saving the world with a super hero cape, a quill, and some rocking literature. Instead she spends most days playing peek-a-boo with her baby girl, reading Goodnight Moon, and racing around the house with her preschooler. She’s completely addicted to Pinterest, peanut butter, and Doctor Who (yup, nerd to the core). She blogs about life with God, parenting, marriage, and anything else that comes to mind at Come stop by and say hello.


Filed under Faith, Fire, The Dirty Gospel, Uncategorized

18 responses to “The Dirty Gospel : A Severe Mercy

  1. Powerful, powerful word. God, please bless Bethany and her family. Please touch her husband with your healing “make-over” of his body. And please, give Bethany grace to “be of good cheer” in the midst of huge challenges. Amen.

  2. Erin Seaman

    Jehovah-rophe, The Lord who heals, we call upon you even now to touch Bryan’s body and bring about complete healing for him. Psalm 103 declares that you are the One who heals all our diseases and we ask that you would heal him in a way that can only be described as a touch from the living God. We ask in your mercy for a touch from you. And yet in our weakness let us also be able to say, “not my will, but yours be done.” I pray that Bethany’s cry would be “Yes, Lord!” Yes to all and everything you have for her, yes to your presence, yes to your severe mercies, yes to the things she cannot do on her own. Wrap her up Lord, in your everlasting arms and carry her through when she cannot walk on her own and give her eyes of faith to see in the Spirit what she cannot in the flesh. May your presence be manifest to their entire family on a daily basis. Thank you for their lives and testimonies and the blessing they are as they share who you are and what you are doing in and through them.

  3. Kathy

    Oh, Bethany, your words went straight to my heart. I am so blessed and encouraged by your faith, your trust, your willingness to submit everything to God knowing that He IS in control. Thank you so much for writing this.

    Lord, what an amazing servant you have here. You are doing so much in and through her. I know your heart smiles as you gaze at your daughter. Please continue to be with her in her life journey. And I especially ask that you touch and heal Bryan, that together they may bring greater glory and honor to you. Amen.

  4. “God hasn’t come to me in the ways I’ve wanted Him to, but He’s come in the ways I’ve needed Him to.”

    Oh Bethany, what good words. I too read A Severe Mercy in my single days and imagined life on the high seas and chilly evenings in Oxford with my love. It’s a book whose message lingers.

    I’m praying for you – for you to continue to see God’s goodness amidst trials and pain.

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  6. Wow. When I popped over here to see if there were any comments on the post I wasn’t expecting to see so many powerful prayers on behalf of our family and my husband. I was so touched. Thank you all so much! I really can’t explain how very much that means to us. We are carried by your prayers. Thank you!

  7. As one who received the severe mercy of losing a daughter at 19 to a ruptured brain aneurism, I can attest alongside you that He is both merciful and God.

    • Wow, September. I am so sorry about your daughter. I cannot fathom what that would be like. I love your comment that you can attest that He is both merciful and God.

      I’d love to hear more of your story sometime.

  8. Beverly Nelson


  9. The Gospel is messy in my life because God cannot be controlled. He continually does things I don’t want Him to do. He isn’t made in our image.


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