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Discouraged? Remember His Claim

DSCF1421Devotional Thought for our Days:

6  “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7  I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8  I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’” 9  So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 (NLT)

Now it becomes clear that what took place on Sinai, in the period of rest after the wandering through the wilderness, is what gives meaning to the taking of the land. Sinai is not a halfway house, a kind of stop for refreshment on the road to what really matters. No, Sinai gives Israel, so to speak, its interior land without which the exterior one would be a cheerless prospect. Israel is constituted as a people through the covenant and the divine law it contains. It has received a common rule for righteous living. This and this alone is what makes the land a real gift. Sinai remains present in the Promised Land. When the reality of Sinai is lost, the Land, too, is inwardly lost, until finally the people are thrust into exile.

As I read these two quotes above, as it talks of people who are discouraged and inwardly lost, they resonate with me.   A lot of my ministry is helping people who think they are lost realize that they’ve been found,   The role of a shepherd/pastor is to bring people home who are broken and lost.

Israel was there in Egypt, it wasn’t where they belonged.  They would later confuse the belonging to being attached to real estate, and when they lost that and were taken in captivity again, they had already lost the belonging that made the land special in the first place. 

It wasn’t the dirt they lived on that made them special, it was who they lived with, as God shared His glory with them.  It was the interior life, as we dwelled with God that made the place special. It was the fact that they were aware that God had claimed them…

Even as He claimed us.

At Sinai, the people couldn’t do anything but dwell in God’s presence.  They struggled with the glory, they struggled with depending on God for food (manna again!) and water.  They struggled with idolatry, and with obedience.  

Yet they lived in His presence, and they had access to the restoration God provided.

There is a lesson here, as we remember how dependable God was at Sinai, how eagerly He would restore those who came for forgiveness. He was there for them, He would rescue them again and again.

He will rescue us, and refresh our shriveled interior life, and help us to again live in His glory.  For He has claimed us as His own>  We are His people, whom He loves. 

Discouraged by the evil you see in this world? The brokenness you feel in your life and the brokenness in the lives of those you love?  There is hope, there is the promise.  You are His!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Discouragement, Weariness, and Walking with Jesus

Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. 20  Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.    Galatians 2:19-20 (MSG)

“We are children of God, bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can be never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed” (1). Responding to our divine vocation demands a constant warfare. Our fight is not a noisy one as it takes place on the battlefield of our ordinary life, for to be “a saint (…) doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end” (60). We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei constantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.

There seems to be today a resurgence in the concept of the superhero.  People who take on great odds, and despite fighting in themselves a war, work for righteousness  There’s the movies, of Captain America, Iron man, Thor and their crew.  There is always the Star Wars and Batman and Superman.   There are now television shows that link the Flash and what has become a favorite, the Arrow.

It thinks they are becoming popular for the same reason their comic books became popular after World War II.  In times of great stress, if we can’t be the heroes, we need someone to inspire us, to assure us, to help us know the heroic is possible. In a recent episode I watch, the hero was away, and it was left to the non-super heroes to save the day. But there were interesting discussions about how to survive when the hero wasn’t there to inspire.

As believers, we want to  be heroic.  Most of us probably not the martyr for the faith type heroism, but the kind that lives the kind of life that a Christian should live.  We want to be good people, those who are respected for their moral character, and their love for their family and maybe even community.  We might not desire true holiness, but we want to be better than the evil world out there.

In the process we don’t like the struggle, we don’t like what St Josemaria calls being “threatened with discouragement.”  It means accepting their will be defeated, but never using that as an excuse.  Defeats where sin and temptation get the best of us, where anxiety overwhelms us.  We don’t want others to know of these struggles, because if they did, our illusion of righteousness might fail us.

Paul knew this failure well; I love the simplistic nature of Peterson’s The Message as it translates here the struggle.I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work.

That would be most of us, and often as we get more tired, beyond just normal weary, the harder it is not to fall into that trap. The harder it is not to presumptuous about succeeding on our own strength.  Our ego calls us to “get er done”, and we push a little more, go out on the edge a little more,

We don’t even have the wisdom, reason or strength to know when we approach the point of burn out; so how can we avoid it?  We can’t – and Paul’s epistle explains it.  We don’t have to prove Christ lives in us, we just have to trust Him, We have to identify with Him, really to recognize that He identified us as His. He provides the strength, the ability, the power to serve, and His presence, so clear that we trust Him.  It knows His presence, His omnipotent presence that allows us to have the humility we need.  It is crying out, Lord, help, have mercy, save me, that sees Him answer.

That is where the secret of holiness lies, not in the outward acts that reveal it, but in the discouragement and weariness, where the only option left is to rely on Jesus.  Can we bear our cross and walk with Jesus?

Yes, because we are walking with Jesus.

Whether you are weary or energetic, may you have the humility to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the love and peace in which you life, for you life in Christ.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 154-162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Discouraged? Well then….

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
4  Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! 5  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! 6  Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. 7  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:4-7 (MSG)

660    If you’re an apostle you should never feel discouraged. There is no obstacle that you cannot overcome. Then why are you sad?

Every once in a while, when I read St Josemaria’s little notes, I have an urge to argue with him.

This is one of those times.

I want to remind him of Paul describes himself to the church in 2 Corinthians 6 and in other places. Surely he felt downcast a time or two, as he poured out his life into the lives of others.  Even in those situations, despite the exhaustion the pain, the hunger, the lies, the trying of his patience, he noted,

  10  Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:10 (NLT)

We should never feel discourages.  Sometimes, I will be honest, I feel very discouraged. I can weary and question whether ministry is worth it.  That’s when I come across passages like Phil 4.  “Rejoice in the Lord always” other translations say. That one hits me like the law; maybe I am not a good Christian because I struggle to rejoice at times.

The Message shows the gospel a little clearer – Celebrate God!  That’s the point!  It is in His presence we rejoice. Not that we have to celebrate, like a court jester before a king, but that we can celebrate because He is here!  We are here, with Him.  He wants us in His presence, He wants to be part of our lives, He loves us!

That’s why we celebrate – and knowing we aren’t alone, knowing the work He has commissioned in and through our lives isn’t dependent upon us, those are the reasons we shouldn’t get discouraged.

God Is with us.

Therefore nothing can stop His plan that all works for good.

So if you feel discouraged, go to a place where you can focus on God’s presence.  Meditate on the promises of your baptism, or contemplate the gift given you, and know the assurance of the Lord’s Supper  Find a sanctuary to pray in, even go to confession and hear that your sins are forgiven!

The more you think about His love, the more you will know He is with you!

That will cause the discouragement to evaporate like a rain drop in the desert. St Josemaria was right – we shouldn’t be discouraged, the Lord is with us!

Cry our Lord have mercy… and realize He is close enough you could have whispered it.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1542-1543). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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