Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 3 for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT2)
How, then, can I learn what it means to be human? What must I do? In his question the teacher of the law mentions a prerequisite that we seldom consider nowadays: if my life in this world is to be successful, I must view it as a stepping-stone to eternal life.
There are days in my life that are dark.
Just like most of you.
We hide from those days, we try to ignore them, and if we can’t, we try to anesthetize ourselves from the pain and emptiness they bring.
Days when I seem lost, when life doesn’t make sense, or when it gets in the way of what I want to do. Especially when what I want to do is serve God? To be with His people? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem that I am doing what I have been put here to do, and that dissonant feeling is horrid.
For me, those days have been a major part of life. Recovery from surgeries that left me isolated for months, asthma as a kid (one year I was in school only 40 days more than I was not!) and even the odd flu bug that knocks me out of church, like it did yesterday. Never mind all the fun things with my son and wife that I miss out on, because of health concerns.
Life can suck at times.
Into those thoughts, invading them comes these readings from this morning. First the psalmist, whose words I skim over at first, tacitly and religiously agreeing with them, Yep, I want that, that’s where I should be, there in the presence of God. What is next to read, oh yeah, proverbs?
A couple of readings later, I come to Pope Benedict’s one-year devotion. It’s become a favorite of mine. And his words make me go back to the Psalm and read it again.
My life doesn’t revolve around this mortal life. It revolves around my life with God. An eternity with Him, dwelling in His presence, not just in the stadium, like watching a rock star from the nosebleed seats. But interacting with Him, sharing the joy that comes from knowing the depth of His love.
This life isn’t the end, not even close, it is the dance lessons for our eternal dance with God.
That is exactly what I need to remember in these dark days. What I so missed my people telling me yesterday, as I missed church. What they fire back with me with conviction, as I tell them the Lord is with them
His presence here and now is a start.
And it’s only a start!
Lord Jesus, help us realize that your ministry to us was not just to make us right and holy, but to have a relationship with us, one that will last forever. Lord, help us to dwell with you, in peace! AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 87). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— 12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (NLT)
101 Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful.
102 Your mind is sluggish and won’t work. You struggle to coordinate your ideas in the presence of our Lord, but it’s useless: a complete fog! Don’t force yourself, and don’t worry either. Listen closely: it is the hour for your heart.
Recently, the skies in Southern California were filled with clouds. Not the light fluffy kind that seems so high, but the dark, ugly, black storm clouds. The kind of clouds that are once fascinating, but also frightening.
Some of us are enduring those clouds spiritually. Whether the storms are coming or not, we feel almost paralyzed as the clouds gather around us, coming at us from every direction.
it is at those times when my prayers seem hollow, my devotions, just going through the motions. I want to move on past them, but the fog which St. Josemaria describes is enveloping us, just as the darkness seems to cover us.
St Josemaria advises us to persevere in prayer, not in pushing our prayer, but listening more carefully, becoming aware of the Lord’s presence, until it shatters the darkness, until the Holy Spirit breathes into us, clearing away the fog. comforting us, loving us.
SO what do we do? Do we fight the burden? Do we just abandon our prayer time, discounting it as too draining, to ineffective, and not worth it? Do we let guilt swallow us because we wonder if our faith is lacking and that is why our prayers are so dry?
I’ve been there, done that, given up, said I will come back in tomorrow, or next week, and once, it was a year…
What I didn’t realize was that these “down times” are essential for my spiritual health. They teach me like they did Ezekiel, who hid in a cave, waiting to find God in the storm and in the fire, then recognizing God’s still small voice after hiding. Why else would Jesus Himself head into the mountains to pray, or go to the garden, begging his friends to watch and pray with Him?
We need to be ministered to by God. We need to let Him love us, care for us, comfort us, and kindle the spark of love that exists in us.
As I come out of these times or at least see the light of the tunnel, I can begin to realize the power of God that raised Christ from the dead is at work in our lives.
And I need that… so need that.
So I’ve learned to try and persist in prayer, waiting to hear He will have mercy, to know His presence and love. ANd some days, I can even rejoice in the dry times, knowing that God is going to take care of it.
As he does for all He loves… and you are one of those He does!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 389-392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
. 7 But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears. 8 “Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the heavens shook; they quaked because of his anger. 9 Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. 10 He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. 11 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. 12 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dense rain clouds. 13 A great brightness shone around him, and burning coals blazed forth. 14 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. 15 He shot arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were confused. 16 Then at the command of the LORD, at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. 17 “He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. 2 Samuel 22:7-17 (NLT)
579 There was a young priest who used to address Jesus with the words of the Apostles: Edissere nobis parabolam, explain the parable to us. He would add: Master, put into our souls the clarity of your teaching, so that it may never be absent from our lives and our works. And so that we can give it to others. You too should say this to Our Lord. (1)
The title of this post comes from the 12th verse of quote from 2 Samuel above, a verse that stands our to me this morning.
It causes great dissonance, a wall of discomfort. Why would God hide himself from us, especially when we need Him? Especially when we’re crying out to Him, overwhelmed by the already dark nature of this world? When we are looking for comfort, when we are looking for His peace, when we need to know He is still in charge, that He is still Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, that His promised presence is reality.
We read he hears our cries, we read our begging for help reaches Him.
And His reaction…. is to hide Himself from us? To block our ability to see Him, to know His presence?
I struggled reading this, this morning…. as it was part of my devotions.
Then I came across St Josemaria’s quote, at the end of my devotions, and I came to that suggested prayer, and thought about it, and prayed that way….. Lord, I need clarity to understand this! Why would you hide Yourself from us?
It wasn’t just to David, the writer of these words. THink it through, the crowds in Jesus day didn’t see Him either. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus, who walked with the risen Lord, didn’t see him either, as they poured out their grief, as they struggled to make sense of the darkness they find themselves surrounded by
why Lord? Why would you let us suffer without the calming effect of your presence? What is the lesson hear I need to understand clearly? How can this lesson be there for me, and show itself in my work>
In David’s psalm, I am beginning to see it, God is not coming gently to our side. He is coming to save His people. Look at the description of His coming, He is arrayed for ull battle, A fierce picture. Terrifying really. But such is His love, he doesn’t come to our with some half strength effort. He comes full strength to deliver us….
I think He hides himself, less in seeing His approach, we would be unable to hear, he hides himself to protect us from a reaction which would show us even more overwhelmed, even more burdened by anxiety and fear. For often, in such times, we could mistake His coming with power to rescue us, with His coming to strike us, to pour out on His wrath……
Think of the cross, we didn’t see that either. There is no way we could have. God came full force into our presence, to deal with all that causes anxiety and fear. We weren’t ready to see God’s wrath poured out, never mind that he bore the punishment, a glorious act, but overwhelming as well. yet no other act is as full of love, is so proving that God won’t forsake us. Even as we are blinding to Him, that doesn’t mean He isn’t working, in us, through us, upon us.
For He is reaching down from Heaven to rescue us…… He has saved us. We are safe, for we dwell in Him
I have been struggling, weary, tired, overwhelmed by the trauma that seems to surround those I care for, trauma of every type. Yet I know there is dawn coming… I know we shall see the glory of God, even if I struggle now….If I am not ready for it at this moment, that’s okay. He knows when the fullness of time will be known. His glory will be seen, even as His suffering was seen, as the wrath of God the Father was poured out….He is here… even now..
I will struggle and wait, trying to be patient…… for He will reveal Himself soon…Whether in all of is glory, or in those moments of communion, as we share in His body and Blood….reminding us that He is present, in and with us.
We can wait… because we know His love…His promises, His word…
May my journey help you in yours, as in those days where God seems distant, we realize His presence is there…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2156-2159). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 You spoke to me, and I listened to every word. I belong to you, LORD God Almighty, and so your words filled my heart with joy and happiness. 17 I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. 18 Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal? Do you intend to disappoint me like a stream that goes dry in the summer?” 19 To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them. Jeremiah 15:16-19 (TEV)
7 LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8 Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9 But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (TEV)
224 Interior dryness is not lukewarmness. When a person is lukewarm the waters of grace slide over him without being soaked in. In contrast, there are dry lands which seem arid but which, with a few drops of rain at the right time, yield abundant flowers and delicious fruit. That is why I ask: When are we going to be convinced? How important it is to be docile to the divine calls which come at each moment of the day, because it is precisely there that God is awaiting us! (1)
There are days where events and situations occur in such a way, I have to wonder if God is on vacation.
It might be that the burdens i deal with just tire me our, that as prayer requests seem to add up, as more and more people I know have to deal with severe trauma and grief.
It could be the burdens that come as I try to balance being a pastor and a father, as days go longer than I thought, or I don’t get the break I need somewhere in the middle. Or that somehow my own physical and personal issues challenge me as well.
It could be that working with some people is such a challenge, even as Jeremiah notes, as they continue to rebel against God, thinking their own way is better. Today they don’t kill those who would warn them, they just laugh it off, or simply ignore it and do what they want to do, not thinking about the consequences, and that God does have a reason for the guidance He gives us. You can tell them, and sometimes they will listen, and sometimes they will come back, with tears in their eyes…. we pray that God would reveal Himself to them in a way they can’t deny… to quote the gospels, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets (and the gospels and epistles), they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 (NLT)
Whether the people we deal with are victims or the guilty, or even both simultaneously, why does it take so long for them to be restored? Why do we have to see them struggle? Why can’t everything be fixed, why can’t prayer work like a magic wand….? Why doesn’t God just fix their problems – both the problems of the good and the bad? After all, isn’t that what ministry is about?
Why do Jeremiah’s whines resonate deeply within the souls of so many pastors, priests, lay leaders in every form of ministry, including those who are parents?
is there a cure for how we feel when we wonder why God hasn’t provided the answer to our prayers?
One of the steps is to deal with the issue of self-righteousness.
That’s God’s answer in the first quote from Jeremiah. He doesn’t tell Jeremiah to force the people to return. God tells Jeremiah to return!
Jeremiah, you come back, you get back to doing what I’ve called you to do. You serve, you stop whining, stop making it sound like you are the martyr, the suffering servant. Proclaim Christ (though it was in the nature of prophecy for Jeremiah – we can point more clearly to the cross) Time to end the self-pitying, the grass is greener ( or in my case, the leaves ae more colorful) over there.
When we stop making ourselves out to be the crucified one, the martyr of God’s cause,
I love Josemaria’s answer, for it changes the game. When there is no answer to prayers, we usually either blame God (as Jeremiah does) or we think there is something wrong with our prayer – either our heart, or our form, that God’s not listening because something we have done is prohibiting the God of the universe from either hearing our prayer, or taking action upon it.
There is a difference between being in rebellion from God, and being in a dry spell, of not praying because we don’t trust or know God is there, and wondering why the prayers aren’t answered yet. Sometimes, that dryness is needed, because we have to learn that God is there….even when we can’t see Him. We have to learn to be stiil, to wait on the Lord, to know that He is God.
It from such dryness that a revival can spring, that incredible growth may com. Some places are like gardens, slow and steady, others are like the desert – where a light rain on Tuesday is followed by plants literally bursting forth. It is that message, the very gospel that causes such, that snapped Jeremiah out of his silence, it is that gospel message that causes the life that seems to be buried to explode out of our parched souls. It is that word of God that brings to us the perspective of God’s love, of His desire, of His work that quickens people, that quickens us.
The gospel message of God’s love, that draws us to Him, that reveals how deep and high, how broad, how wide, that love is… for us.
A love that answers those prayers, in ways we can’t quite understand, yet ways fulfilling His promise to never leave or forsake us. The promises that nothing can separate us from Him, even the valley of the shadow of death. The gospel that says even though we think His words we proclaim may return void, they won’t. He has promised.
And knowing Him, remembering His promises, we return from our whining to get back to our calling, to proclaiming that love we need to know ourselves to others.
And then, they come… they find that love, they find the healing for the brokenness they chose…. and our prayers… well they are answered.
For He is our God, our refuge, and we are His people, the children He cares for by providing them peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 964-968). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.