Some days, everything just seems a little bit out of kilter. My three-year-old, Charlotte, had one of those days this week. We just COULD NOT GET IT RIGHT. The pink cereal bowl seemed like a good choice until the milk and cereal were in it, and then it became an offensive object because it wasn't purple. Her Frozen dress up outfit was utterly unpleasing because it didn't have fairy wings. Any suggestion that she simply needed a nap (el pronto) was met with Charlotte lying prone on the floor in a state of complete resignation to the unfairness of her life. No matter where she looked, something was getting in the way of her peace and joy.
What's getting in the way of your peace and joy? Have you been a little weary about the state of things in your life? Maybe it's the state of the world, or the state of your family, or the state of your heart that has got you down. You can see so clearly how things are supposed to be, yet everywhere you turn there's more evidence that reality is falling short of the ideal.
It's so easy to feel disheartened. We feel out of control. When it doesn't matter how much harder we work or what we say-when the matter is clearly out of our hands-it's pretty tempting to respond in anger or to just give up. Our hopes have been dashed and we can't see how things are going to get better.
Saint Peter addressed these feelings with these words:
Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)
This passage is loaded with truth. First of all, we're told to not be surprised at these circumstances. This is a call out for us to adjust our expectations. When we step out and follow Christ, our lives do not get easier. Yes, we are given strength, hope, salvation, comfort and a myriad of other essential gifts, but we are never promised a life free from conflict. Heaven is NOT here. If we expect life on earth to feel like heaven, we are going to be perpetually disappointed.
We're then told to rejoice when we are suffering for Jesus' sake. This is not to say that all the suffering we experience is the result of following Christ. Sometimes we're in a mess as a result of our poor decisions, and as a result, we are suffering.
We may think we're suffering for Christ's sake because we stood up for Him and spoke out. This brings us to tricky territory. Yes, we are to be faithful and are not to compromise our beliefs. But it can be a poor decision on our part to speak at times when it would prudent to remain silent. It can be a poor decision to speak with such pointed conviction that our words wound instead of leading people to truth.
It's worth asking ourselves why we are being picked on for our faith. Sometimes it's due to being surrounded by people who are far from God. But much of the time, it's due to the way in which we have represented God to a world that doesn't know Him.
He is a God of love. All too often, our words have been biting and judgmental, and we are reaping the results. I'm not just speaking of the way we interact with our culture. I'm talking about how we act within our own families, too. By no means am I saying that we are to compromise. That is the coward's way out. I'm encouraging all of us (myself included) to speak prayerfully-ask God what we are to say, and how we are to say it, being in continuous communication with Him,
Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington D.C., wrote the following words of encouragement to those of us who are longing for the world to be in a better state:
Do not be dismayed. These are unpleasant times, but not unexpected. For our part, we must not be fascinated, enamored, or discouraged. Simply and clearly draw back from this confusion and see it for what it is: ungodly, confused, worldly and devoid of the Spirit. Have nothing to do with it.
But that's not the end of the story. God's glory is going to be revealed. One day, His truth will be seen clearly. There will come a time when all the wrongs will be made right, when betrayal will be replaced by fidelity, when love will win over hatred. In the meantime, we are going to experience the dichotomy between what is and what will be. Continue to ask God for guidance.
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
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