4 He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. 5 Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help. 6 If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure. 2 Corinthians 1:4-6 (TEV)
Even darkness, even evil, even death, even sin: all of them, seen by the light of the sacramental fire, become capable of helping the work of God. They can contribute accidentally, but existentially, to the life, growth and liberty of our souls.
Christ upbraids the disciples with their unbelief and hardness of heart. He does not reject them, nor deal too severely with them, but reproves them. It is not an insignificant matter that the Lord rebuked his disciples; for unbelief is the greatest sin that can be named. Christ tells them the cause of their unbelief when he says that their hearts are hardened, still he deals mildly and gently with them. This is told us for our comfort, lest we despair, when, lacking in faith, we doubt, stumble and fall.
It will take a lot to write this post.
I don’t enjoy encountering the dark moments of life. Neither do I like dealing with evil.
Whether the moment is personal, and is my own journey through darkness, depression and even despair, or whether it is walking beside someone, I really struggle. And as these journeys overlap and pile up, I get weighted down.
As do most pastors, teachers, counselors, and others who continually walk with people through the darkness.
I believe it is the primary reason that there is such burnout in the ministry today. We’ve spent 40-50 years pretending that everything is perfect in the church, looking for process after program, going through consultants and coaches (how many of them burnt out in ministry?) and fail to deal with the darkness, evil and the grief that shadow our lives.
And so we are crushed…. our faith, that ability to depend on God, melts like a ice cream cone in the desert in August. It’s at that point, that sin and temptation become so powerful, as we look for someway to escape, someway to cope with the pressure building up inside us. And when those sins and temptations fail to, the darkness grows more pervasive, more stifling.
Except for the promise of Jesus.
In Him, we have the promise that His great help – we have the promise of His presence, and His love and mercy. We have been given the Holy Spirit – who has the title of the comforter, and there is so much comfort there that we instinctively comfort others.
That comfort is seen in Luther’s explanation of Jesus correcting his disciples. Luther makes it clear that Jesus doesn’t reject them outright, nor is the severity enough to crush them. But as he qon’t quench a candle’s wick that is barely flowing, Jesus, with great love and wisdom, ministers to us in our times of weakness. It is shared in the scriptures not to make them appear weak, but to help us in our time of despair, doubt, and stumbling.
This I count onmore than ever in life. I Know I have to walk through the shadows; i know the effect they might have on me, but I also know He is there… and he will get me through this… as promised. I may not be able to change my attitude, or even find the light in my darkness, but I know it will be there…I know He will be there.
Merton’s words are absolutely accurate–these times are ones that accidentally cause incredible growth in our souls. For they show us how complete the works of Jesus is in our lives. W learn this through the sacraments, and the promises scripture gives in them. How Christ’s death – which we are united to in them, means we live in Him, and He in us. It may be an accident from Satan’s perspective, but it is well within the promise of God revealed in Romans 8 – all things work for God… and nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Now to learn to be patient through such trials!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 173.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 153.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If our faith is strong, we should be patient with the Lord’s followers whose faith is weak. We should try to please them instead of ourselves. 2 We should think of their good and try to help them by doing what pleases them. 3 Even Christ did not try to please himself. But as the Scriptures say, “The people who insulted you also insulted me.”Romans 15:1–3 (CEV)
Instead, it took half a lifetime to appreciate, through a million experiments, every one of which proved the same result: that the way to happiness is self-forgetful love and the way to unhappiness is self-regard, self-worry, and the search for personal happiness. Our happiness comes to us only when we do not seek for it. It comes to us when we seek others’ happiness instead.
Happiness has an odd synonym, Or perhaps not a synonym, but a word that is so intimately related to it that they can’t be divided.
Happiness and self-denial.
We see that in the fact that it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured the suffering on the cross. We see it in the appeal to Christliness – and the definition of Jesus who age it all up in Philippians 2. We see the same thing in Paul’s words to the church in Rome that appears above. As we are patient (long-suffering is a better transition) with those who are weak, we are focusing on their joy, on their contentment, on their ability to experience the love of God.
That doesn’t mean we condone their weak faith, but we put their growth as more important than ours.
We seek their best interests, we look to strengthen their faith, and in doing so, we find the joy we need. As Kreeft points out, forgetting self in the cause of love is key to joy, the key to happiness.
I know this to be true, as I see people amid suffering, and watch they grow in their faith as the Holy Spirit comforts them as they realize God’s peace. Seeing this happen is the greatest and most enjoyable of blessings.
It is why I love to share the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. When I see people realize the incredible blessing they’re receiving, it makes everything else worth it. It’s when I hear that the Holy SPirit’s comfort is helping people through what they are going thru and that a simple word, or just being there helps them, this too is something that is a blessing.
It is the real reason why some pastors work more, ot have more opportunities to see God at work in people’s lives.
A warning about all this is in order.
Don’t just try and start living sacrificially on your own strength. It will burn you out. And examine yourself regularly, make sure you haven’t begun to live sacrificially on your own strength – you will burn out, and even develop a martyrdom complex.
Note that Paula advised this for those stronger in the faith – trust in God is the only way to accomplish this. We have to depend on Him for the joy, as well as the strength to do this, it is our intimate relationship with Jesus, that unity as we are drawn and united to His death and resurrection that makes self-sacrifice not only necessary but the great blessing it is.
He is our joy, and seeing others find that joy and the peace that comes with it can only be done as we are there with Him.
So you want joy, spend time with the Lord of life, the ord of Life, and as you do, you will be transformed, and love in a sacrificial manner as He did.
Lord, help us find life in Christ and find the joy He knew. AMEN
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16–17.
Devotional thought fo the Day:
I don’t know what will happen to me in Jerusalem, but I must obey God’s Spirit and go there. 23 In every city I visit, I am told by the Holy Spirit that I will be put in jail and will be in trouble in Jerusalem. †24 But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And that work is to tell the good news about God’s great kindness. Acts 20:22-24 CEV
Thinking of the love of God as something nice is forgetting that the love of God is the love of God. The awesomeness of God makes the love of God equally awesome. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a great Jewish theologian of the twentieth century, said, “God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake.” If you do not like that (one of my students responded to that quotation, “I prefer a God I can handle”; indeed!), then you do not like the love of God, for the love of God is also an earthquake, not an uncle’s love, but a Father’s.
“To die is a good thing. How can anyone with faith, at the same time, be afraid to die? But as long as the Lord wants to keep you here on earth, it would be cowardice for you to want to die. You must live, live and suffer, and work for Love: that is your task” (1037).
I wish I had Paul’s attitude.
I think I am far more like Jonah, who faced a difficult task and chose ot be cast overboard rather than do what God had called him to do.
The is a temptation to run and hid, even if that means embracing death for the wrong reason. For while we know, we are bound to heaven, even though we know God desires us there; eventually, it is not a place to escape the pain and suffering life brings.
We can’t be cowards, abandon our lot in life, and run away. No matter how tempting it may seem.
We have been called to share in the ministry of reconciling people to God. Every single one of us has a role in this. That means we have to be so sure of God’s presence, that we can enter their darkness, that we can break through the gates of hell and endure it, in order to be there and witness God’s love shattering their darkness.
God isn’t the kindly uncle, He is the Father who expects us to take on the family work, to embrace the suffering and pain it will require. To trust Him enough to hand over to Him the things we cannot understand or handle, freeing us to love those we minister too. We need to trust Him enough to let the Holy Spirit comfort us in our distress, as is promised.
That is the key, depending on His promises.
To know that even if we are heading toward imprisonment, or martyrdom, or simply the struggle of our lives, He is with us.
He will see us through. He will be with us through it all…
Lord Jesus, help us to know You, to experience Your love so deeply, that our trust in You overrides our ignorance, our doubt, our fears. Help us embrace the life You have created in us, and called us to live. AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 201.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge. Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. 17 These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. 18 Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CEV)
Anxious to serve his Master, he finds his strength unequal to his zeal: his constant cry is, “Help me to serve thee, O my God.” If he be thoroughly active, he will have much labour; not too much for his will, but more than enough for his power, so that he will cry out, “I am not wearied of the labour, but I am wearied in it.”
There are days when every pastor, every worship leader, every elder and layperson that serves and attends church are tired. Sometimes we let that tiredness turn to exhaustion and without a sabbath, we will burn out, and crash and burn.
Our friends and family may witness it… they may be victims of it!
We want to do good, we have a burning need to serve the people of God, to make a difference in their life, by revealing the love of God. Work, that if we are tired, may seem futile, like we aren’t impacting people’s lives, that they are not growing in their dependence on Jesus. When they walk away or need the same lesson for thirty-fifth time, or look to other sources,
The dissonance that Spurgeon mentions is an incredible reality.
The way he describes the cry of despair deeply resonates with me.
I am not weary of the work, I love it, I need it. But doing it can devour our energy, our strength, our hope… and sometimes, we get confused by our exhaustion, and its cause.
To those of us in this situation, carefully reading Paul’s words to a tired church helps.
The strength he describes despite our tiredness. In fact, it may require our being tired, lacking the energy of our own, and dependent on God to simply keep going. Paul directs us not to put one more step in front of the other, but rather to look to Jesus. To look to the point He guarantees the rest that comes from when we enter the presence of the Father.
With eyes fixed on Christ, the burdens don’t disappear, the discomfort and weariness still are there, and yet, somehow, their impact on us lessens. and the blessings of seeing God at work is magnified. For those things we see Him doing become the blessing we so need.
It is then we find that kneeling at the altar, in prayer, and in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus becomes so amazing, and those moments, the greatest moments of peace, of rest, or restoration.
So contrary to the normal thought, the idea of rest found away from the ministry. Rather, rest is found in the ministry. Not in the meetings, or the casting of vision. Not in the administration of programs and in training, comforting and disciplining people.
But in the gathering of God’s people into His presence, to be assured of His love, and His presence. He heals and nurtures us, as He declares we are His, and then proceeds to prove that we are righteous, as the Holy Spirit cleanses and transforms us into the very image of Jesus. Showing us the love we cannot explain, can only experience as we plunge its immeasurable dimensions.
That’s where we find the tiredness of being on this mission field evaporate, leaving us with the mission we will never tire of.
Find rest my friends, at the altar, in the prayers, and in the Body and Blood broken and shed for you and I. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day
81 I am worn out, LORD, waiting for you to save me; I place my trust in your word. 82 My eyes are tired from watching for what you promised, while I ask, “When will you help me?” 83 I am as useless as a discarded wineskin; yet I have not forgotten your commands. 84 How much longer must I wait? Psalm 119:81-84a (TEV)
165 You, who for an earthly love have endured so many degradations, do you really believe that you love Christ when you are not willing to suffer—for him!—that humiliation?
I know it is not just me, other pastors and teachers of the faith will tell you this as well.
God prepares us for what we have to endure through the things we come across in our preaching, and in our personal study.
Preaching on a passage about Judas? Prepare to be betrayed by someone close. Or worse, prepare to deal with your betraying Jesus.
Teaching through 1 COrinthians, you might have to deal with some division, some self-centeredness, and some people who need to be taught that worship is about the community not the individual.
Been asked to give a message on missions and the need to go out into your community? Prepare to feel like Jonah at time.
It happens in our devotions too, and so when I come across passages like those quoted above… I shudder a bit. ANd then I look around figuratively and consider who do I know that is undergoing what the prophet Jeremiah and St. Josemaria are talking about.
In this case, who is overwhelmed, worn out, suffering under the weight they bear? Who is struggling and barely able to croak out a prayer asking God, “when?” WHo is feeling useless, so tired emotionally and spiritually they cannot even remember the promise that “all things work for good?”
St. Josemaria’s comfort comes across harsh, as if he is judging us as being thankless cowards, unwilling to suffer. I wonder if that is a translation issue? Working through his words for a few minutes, I see his point. Compared to our earthly loves, how much more God has done for us, and as we contemplate that, our sufferings become tolerable, they might even be forgotten.
This too is the Psalmist’s answer. In the midst of bottoming out, he comments that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. I don’t think he is just talking about the “do’s and do not’s” bt the words God has established things by, from “let there be light” to “you will be my people, and I will be your God”. Especially that last “command.” We need to remember that as we are in the midst of suffering, or in the midst of bottoming out.
“I will be with you,” “I will never forsake you!” These phrase are what we hold on to when we can’t find anything else, for they remind us that what we are going through.
That this time will pass, and we will see God.
This moment may last 10 minutes, or a few hours, or even a week or more. These times where we simply endure, knowing the Lord is with us. His presence will strengthen us, and allow us the freedom to ask for reassurance, and to be reminded that we dwell in peace, for He is God. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 515-516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT2)
776 Don’t fall into a vicious circle. You are thinking: when this is settled one way or another, I’ll be very generous with my God. Can’t you see that Jesus is waiting for you to be generous without any reservation, so that he can settle things far better than you imagine? A firm resolution, as a logical consequence: in each moment of each day I will try generously to carry out the will of God.
I have been at people’s sides when they were so overwhelmed that they thought they would never live through it. And I’ve been there when they not only expected to die, they actually expected it. The feeling as darkness closes in, as our hope in this life seems to fade, these emotions? feelings? Those words aren’t strong enough, this level of life seems too unbearable, even as tears come without warning, or worse, the days when you wonder if there are any left.
It is those times we want to be like Luther, hiding in plain sight in a thunderstorm, trying to make a deal with God. “God, if you will only let me survive this, I will dedicate my life to you as a monk, or go on the mission field, or give up my favorite moments of sinful joy.”
In Josemaria’s words, we refuse to be generous with God unless He miraculously settles the issue, solves the problem, provides the miracle. We look at accounts like Luther’s, or we misappropriate the story of Gideon’s fleece, and blackmail God, only giving Him what He should have if our demands are met if our rescue is completed if we receive the blessings we want. We can even find justification for our actions in Jacob’s wrestling with God, demanding a blessing from Him.
Except that Gideon’s fleece wasn’t something that directly benefited him, and Jacob’s blessing was not a blessing of his choosing.
I wonder if God hadn’t already been working on his to give up the legal profession for the ministry. Seems like an awfully random thing to come up with in the midst of a storm. Repent of something might be more common, fearing God’s wrath certainly, but sacrificing his life as a living sacrifice?
I think he may have already been doing a Jonah routine on that one.
And God used his suffering to benefit many. God would use his sacrifice to reform the church (yes the Catholic Church reformed after that – some of his issues were handled at Trent, and then Vatican I & II… and maybe some more..eventually)
When we try, under duress or plan, to blackmail God, we take our eyes off of Him, and we ignore or refuse to see and hear His plan, and how it will be good. Even in this midst of pain, even in the midst of suffering.
That’s when we need to listen to Paul, and the sure confidence he has in God, who rescues us from sin and death. We learned to rely on God he writes. instead of relying on ourselves. It is a plea to us as well; that we would know we can rely on Him, too. “He will continue to rescue..”
We need to know that. For the, we can hear Josemaria’s advice, to give generously, without any reservation, without any thought of the suffering, for we shall endure eternally with Jesus. Don’t wait for everything to work out, give of yourself generously during the crisis. Depend on His faithful love. Look forward to the day we will be at home with the Father/ As it is now, with the Spirit indwelling in us, so it will be with our dwelling in the Father’s presence, fully experiencing the breadth, width, height, and depth of His love.
Heavenly Father, when we suffer, help us to keep looking to you, knowing Your love is faithful always, that you do promise all to work for good for us who love You. Help us to realize we aren’t always the best judge of that, and simply trust in You.
We pray this in Jesus name, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1791-1795). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)
12 Not that I have secured it already, nor yet reached my goal, but I am still pursuing it in the attempt to take hold of the prize for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, 14 I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 So this is the way in which all of us who are mature should be thinking, and if you are still thinking differently in any way, then God has yet to make this matter clear to you. 16 Meanwhile, let us go forward from the point we have each attained. Philippians 3:12-16 (NJB)
708 The world, the devil, and the flesh are a band of adventurers who take advantage of the weakness of that savage you have within you. In exchange for the poor bauble of pleasure, which is worth nothing, they want you to hand over to them the pure gold and the pearls, the diamonds and the rubies, drenched in the living and redeeming blood of your God—the price and the treasure of your eternity.
There are days when I ask myself the question that is the title of this blog.
The problem is that I ask it at the wrong times, or perhaps with the wrong attitude.
I ask it on rough days when I am weary, broken by the events I endured, the pain and suffering encountered. I ask it with the attitude of trying to find a way out, a way to alleviate the stress that ll of the trauma and drama causes. I ask because, in the moment of the struggle, doubt creeps in and temptations arise.
The answer is that walking with Christ is always worth it, usually, somewhere between my heart, mind, and soul, I know this. Yet I also know Satan and the sinful nature that I still have to fight (see that described in Romans 7). It doesn’t have to be the poor bauble of pleasure, it could even be the illusion that suffering and drama doesn’t exist.
In those times, I need to remember the suffering He endured, and that He thought I was worth it! I have to breathe, allowing the Holy Spirit to quiet and comfort me, allowing the Spirit to work deep within, reminding me of who God is, of where God is.
This is why passing the peace and the Lord’s Supper are such important times in my life, For there I am driven to remember He is with me, that His peace is where I am kept, I just have to remember it. As person after person shakes my hand, or grips me in a bear hug, I am reminded of where I am. As they say, “peace be with you,” I realize that they know this because they have seen it in their own lives, as I tell them. I dwell in His peace.
That message is even more reinforced as I take in my hand body of Christ, and the cup containing His precious blood. What a gift! What a reminder that from the pain of the cross comes my hope, and the joy that is unspeakable.
Is it worth it? This life lived, walking with people who struggling, each carrying his own burden? This carrying of burdens? Of course.
God is with us!
So hang on to this hope, and know He is hanging on to you, as He walks with you.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1656-1659). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Evidence is Within
2 Cor 4:5-12
† I.H.S. †
May the gifts of God’s mercy and peace become so integrated in your lives that everyone can see and praise God that Christ lives in you!
Can you keep going?
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see my first two churches. They are 115 miles from here, in a desert community called Yucca Valley. Saw a lot of friends at one of them, as we gathered to pay respects to a man I helped trained in ministry. He was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks after he was installed as a pastor at his first church. Drove by the other, my very first church.
During the drive I back, I did a lot of thinking, about why I’ve been doing this twenty years as a pastor and years before that as a chaplain. I thought about my friend, who at 62 started seminary to become a pastor, and who died a week ago. I thought my own mentor that retired in that place whom I was able to see. And I thought about some of the challenges that fellow pastors and ministers are facing…
And I heard again these words of St Paul that were read this morning…
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
I’ve seen that statement become true not just in pastors’ lives, but Christians who live all over the world. Some face physical threats, in places like the Sudan, or China. Some are harassed and mocked because of their faith. Some face challenges in the inner city, or in churches that struggle to survive, both financially and because of conflict. I know a younger lady, with a master’s degree in International Business, who set that aide to be a missionary among the refugees in Turkey, while her sister is working at an orphanage school in Nigeria. I know people who serve in churches as teachers or setting up everything every Saturday for Sunday service, who volunteer thousands of hours.
Not one of them does it for the accolades or the applause. Just like the Apostle Paul in that passage – we don’t talk about ourselves. Those who know and follow Jesus serve each other and the world for Jesus sake.
Because God has shown the light of His glorious light into our hearts.
That is why all this is here… To help people know that…
In verse 6-7, Paul explains why people would embrace suffering,
. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
The light that invades the darkness…A darkness that affects our hearts and oppresses our very lives.
The darkness has a name, it is called sin.
What is this thing we call sin? Basically, It is failing to love God and hear His voice as He shows us how to live. It is failing to love Him and all those around us, helping them. even those that count themselves, enemies and adversaries, because God loves them and would invite them into this incredible relationship with Him, that would make them our family.
Sin can seem as little as a tiny lie or breaking an oath or gossiping about someone. It can seem as big as murder or theft. In every case, it works to destroy relationships, it plunges us into darkness.
This is the darkness God’s love shatters.
The love that we see in Jesus, as He died to remove all that darkness, all of the burdens, healing the relationships that have been broken.
That is what the cross is all about… the payment for the sin, but in order that we can be in fellowship with God, so that we walk with Him, not only during this life but eternally.
That is the reason for the forgiveness of sin, for the forgiveness of those times where we put ourselves first and forget God and others. Yet despite the damage we’ve done, and may still do, God is willing to deal with it, He has dealt with it. By dying on the cross for us, and rising from that death, so that even death cannot separate us from Him
This is what it means for Him to shine His glorious love into our lives, by revealing to us the love that erases the punishment, in the life and eternity, that we would have earned.
It is that glory that you see, in the lives of people that are willing to give up everything, fame, fortune, salaries, comfort, their own pride, even the right to be angry at someone who has hurt them. This is the love you see, as someone gives up their comfort, or even their retirement, to serve others, This is the glory you see, the evidence that Jesus lives in us, even in us broken down older folk.
God loves us, and wants to cleanse all of us and make us His own people. His own children. It is then we know the peace of God, which goes beyond all comprehension, as He guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 HCSB
They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” m 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, n “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell •asleep. Acts 7:59-60 HCSB
45 Why feel hurt by the unjust things people say of you? You would be even worse, if God ever left you. Keep on doing good, and shrug your shoulders.
If the story of St. Josemaria was not known to me, I would consider his words above to be a mere platitude, words of someone who have never been betrayed, never hurt by a good friend, never the subject of gossip and ridicule.
Having read his biographies, I realize that they are written from the place of experience, of having to depend on God’s strength to lift the shoulders, to shrug off the pain, To see the need, the deep spiritual neediness of those who hurt us, rather to draw ourselves in, to protect our own shattered hearts.
It is the same kind of strength that St Stephen showed in Acts, as stones broke the bones as they tried to crush his spirit as well as his body. The same kind of love, inconceivable, overwhelming love that Jesus showed while being crucified.
But how do you and I find the faith, for it is faith, not our own will, and determination that will sustain us in these times of trial, the times where our heart and souls are stretched, where the pain wreaks havoc inside us.
I mean, does God our Father expect us to be saints? Do we all have to go through the traumas and persecution that others experienced? Will you and I have to suffer worse betrayals?
I don’t know, but the lack of persecution isn’t an excuse for a weak faith. Each of us should see a dependence on God, a trust in God nurtured to the point where our confidence in God, our adoration of Him who is present in our lives that any trial is considered far less than the blessing of being His.
Notice that dependence in Stephen as he cries out in faith, “Lord, receive me!” See in in the words of St Josemaria as he points out the hopefully obvious, it is far worse to lose the presence of God in our lives. ( I sometimes think that the obvious has to be etched onto my eyes, lest I forget it!)
In order to do with anything that requires faith, I need to know God is here, that He is present, that He is caring for me, that He will comfort me and be there when I need Him. All this is promised to us in our baptism, as we are united with His death and resurrection (see Romans 6, Colossian 2–3)
It doesn’t matter what is challenging my faith, that is stretching my heart and soul, whether it is something internal, some fear or frustration, or some kind of persecution or harassment, what sustains us, what enables us to endure, is to know Jesus, to hold on to Him, knowing He is holding on to us.
This is how we forgive those who set themselves against us, this is how we ask God to forgive them, how we keep doing good, knowing this…
The Lord is with you!
(P.S. If you have been able to shrug off pain and forgive, and can talk about it, please leave some encouraing words about this… so others can see that God does help us with this! THANKS!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 260-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
devotional thought for these traumatic times
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)
22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
214 Trust fully in God and have a greater desire each day never to run away from him.
There are days I want to run away from God. I have to be honest, there are days I just don’t get it, days that life hurts so much I wish I had the speed and the endurance to run from Him. When what happens in life doesn’t make sense, and there is really no one to blame….
I think Jeremiah had days like that, and probably King David (who wrote Psalm 139 in a deal of pain as well) did. Not everyone is as strong as St. Paul seemed to be.
Today is one of those days, and I expect I will feel the same way Monday evening… and for many to come. I know quite a few people are reacting the same way, which is why I dare write this, just as Jeremiah dared to write that God deceived him, tricked him, and it hurt because life just isn’t supposed to be like this.
Grief sucks, there is no doubt about it.
A man well acquainted with it, St. Josemaria, tells me not to run (convenient that was in my devotions this morning… ) He tells me not to desire to run, Jeremiah even says that if I do, God’s word, His message, the gospel, will burn a hole in me, or at least that’s what Jeremiah thought. I suppose we could even bring Jonah and Job into this, for they would say the same thing.
God will sustain us, He will help us cope with the burdens, the pain, the hurt…
And we need Him too.
The Lord is with us!
Lord, Have mercy on us!
These aren’t empty words, they are worth more to me than all the other words I type….
You need to hear them, my friends so need to hear them… I need to hear them…
So I will stay, and let them burn themselves into my heart, and soul, rather than my stomach…repeated often…
and praying for the strength to trust Him for them. Which He will provide as well.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 932-934). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.