During the fall of 1974, Michael Ford, President Gerald Ford’s son, was attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the Boston area along with his wife, Gayle. Because his father occupied the Oval Office at the time, Michael had to have two Secret Service agents with him at all times. They tried to look like students, but their cover was blown. For one thing, most of the agents were chain smokers. Since no one was allowed to smoke in classes, they were often seen taking turns leaving the class to get a nicotine fix. Whenever Mike and Gayle would take walks, two men would invariably be seen stumbling behind them. This led some at Gordon-Conwell to remark that the Secret Service men reminded them of David’s words in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” So a section of the student body at the school nicknamed the two men “Goodness” and “Mercy!”
While the sons and daughters of sitting American presidents are guarded around the clock by Secret Service agents, it is nothing in comparison to the glorious truth that the children of God are shadowed day and night by God’s goodness and mercy. Wherever life takes us, or whatever life takes from us, we are, as God’s family, always in the company of His goodness and mercy. Wherever we are, there they are—goodness for every step and mercy for every sin. The word “follow” carries the idea of being pursued. This word is used of Pharaoh’s malicious pursuit of the fleeing Israelites in the book of Exodus (Ex. 14:4). Interestingly, David, the author of Psalm 23, spent most of his adult life being pursued by his enemies and God’s enemies, but he found comfort in the truth that God’s goodness and mercy were always hard on his heels (Heb. 13:5–6). By implication, God’s goodness and mercy will run after us, find us, and minister to our needs wherever we are. We will never be bereft of God’s love (Rom. 8:35–39).
God’s goodness speaks of the many gifts that He showers upon His creation and church. It encompasses all that makes life bearable and beneficial (Acts 14:17). God’s goodness crested in the gift of His Son as our loving Savior (Titus 3:4–7). God’s mercy alternatively speaks of God’s goodness reaching down to us despite our sin (Lam. 3:22–23). It is that which allows for God’s goodness to be shown. In mercy, God shows kindness. These glorious actions of God complement each other. In God’s goodness, we get what we don’t deserve, and in God’s mercy we don’t get what we do deserve. Not goodness alone, for we are rebels in need of clemency. Not mercy alone, for we need many things besides forgiveness. In the one we have provision for all our needs, and in the other we have pardon for all our sins. Therefore, as a child of God, don’t be afraid to step out into an unknown future because you are being followed by God’s goodness and mercy.