Sitting in the darkness
And my final excerpt from Fr. Marc Foley’s book, The Context of Holiness:
Acts of faith are expressed in two ways. The first is our willingness to jump into the darkness, that is, choosing to trust in God’s guidance as we venture into the unknown. The second is our willingness to sit in the darkness, which is continuing to do God’s will when our emotional resources are depleted and life seems hollow, meaningless and absurd. . . .
These are the worst times in our life of faith when viewed from a psychological and emotional perspective. But from a spiritual vantage point, they are potentially the best of times. For when we continue to do God’s will without emotional support, our love for God and neighbor grows and is purified.
“He looks at you with so much love”
“Live in peace and joy, my dear daughter. Our Lord looks at you and he looks at you with so much love and compassion; and the weaker you are, the more his love for you grows warm and tender. Never harbor thoughts which would go in reverse direction. If these thought come and pester you, pay no heed to them; turn your mind away from them and cling to God with a humility that is bold and courageous. Speak to him about his sacred and indescribable goodness which pours itself out on us, loving our small and week, poor and abject nature, despite all its infirmities.” (St. Francis de Sales)
Coming to the end of ourselves
Jerry Sitter, in his outstanding book on loss, A Grace Disguised, writes about the sudden loss of his wife, his daughter, and his mother, all in one tragic car accident. We all suffer loss and Jerry writes so well about what is common to all of us in our losses. Here is one sampling:
Loss forces us to see the dominant role our environment plays in determining our happiness. Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being. It knocks us off our feet and puts us on our backs. In the experience of loss, we come to the end of ourselves.
But in coming to the end of ourselves, we can also come to the beginning of a vital relationship with God. Our failures can lead us to grace and to a profound spiritual awakening. This process occurs frequently with those who suffer loss. It often begin when we face our own weaknesses and realize how much we take favorable circumstances for granted. When loss deprives us of those circumstances, our anger, depression, and ingratitude expose the true state of our souls, showing us how small we really are. We see that our identity is largely external, not internal.
Finally, we reach the point where we begin to search for a new life, one that depends less on circumstances and more on the depth of our souls. That, in turn, opens us to new ideas and perspectives, including spiritual ones. We feel the need for something beyond ourselves, and it begins to dawn o nus that reality may be more than we once thought it to be. We begin to perceive hints of the divine, and our longing grows. To our shock and bewilderment, we discover that there is a Being in the universe who, despite our brokenness and sin, loves us fiercely. In coming to the end ourselves, we have come to the beginning of our true and deepest selves. We have found the One whose love gives shape to our being.
Praying for you, that through whatever loss you are experiencing right now, that you might know the fierce love of God for you.
As a general rule
A quick method of discerning what to do with those agitating, discouraging thoughts:
“As a general rule, you ought to regard as coming from the enemy any thought which agitates you, throws you into perplexity, which diminishes your confidence and narrows up your heart. The best thing in such cases is just to put the matter that perplexes you out of your mind, saying to yourself, ‘When I have the opportunity I shall ask the solution of this difficult from some priest,’ and then go on in peace as you were before.” (Dom Marmion)
I’m sure Dom Marmion would allow the substitution of “a wise person” for “some priest,” someone who is spiritually mature and whose discernment you trust.
Remember Amy Carmichael’s wonderful advice as well:
“The reason why singing is such a splendid shield against the fiery darts of the devil is that it greatly helps us to forget him, and he cannot endure being forgotten. He likes us to be occupied with him, what he is doing (our temptations), with his victories (our falls), with anything but our glorious Lord. So sing. Never be afraid of singing too much. We are much more likely to sing too little.”
Never, ever give up
When you fail
“When you fail to measure up to your Christian privilege, be not discouraged for discouragement is a form of pride. The reason you are sad is because you looked to yourself and not to God; to your failings not to His love. You will shake off your faults more readily when you love God than when you criticize yourself. God is more lenient than you because he is perfectly good and therefore loves you more. Be bold enough then to believe that God is on your side, even when you forget to be on His.” ~ Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Preface to Religion)
The temptation of temptations
“So go forth very bravely with perfect trust in the goodness of him who calls you to this holy task. When has anyone ever hoped in the Lord and been disappointed? Mistrust of your own powers is good as long as it is the groundwork of confidence in God’s power; but if you are ever in any way discouraged, anxious, sad, or melancholy I entreat you to cast this away as the temptation of temptations; and never allow your spirit to argue or reply in any way to any anxiety or downheartedness to which you may feel inclined. Remember this simple truth which is beyond all doubt: God allows many difficulties to beset those who want to serve him but he never lets them sink beneath the burden as long as they trust in him. This, in a few words, is a complete summary of what you most need: never under any pretext whatsoever to yield to the temptation of discouragement, not even on the plausible pretext of humility.” (St. Francis de Sales)
A lot to reflect on in this passage by Maria Boulding. Hope you can make the time to read it slowly . . . and to find hope for yourselves and others in it:
There is a discontent in us that can be partly stifled by material satisfactions, but some experiences tend to awaken it. It may be roused by beauty, or by love, by great pain or by the nearness of death. It can surface easily in times of silence when we try to confront the mystery of ourselves and wonder about God.
If you have ever known this discontent and pondered the mysteries and contradictions of the human condition, it is of consequence to both yourself and others that you hope, expect and listen in silence to the word of God who is himself attuning you to hear. Your silent listening through prayer, through people and through events will be very personal; it may seem very solitary, but it is not. You are the answering readiness, the receptivity, without which even today God cannot give as he longs to give. Our noisy, busy world has little time to listen and wait; and–what is worse–it is starved of hope. So many hopes disappoint, and people are afraid of being disappointed yet again. It is when we reach the brink of despair that hope grounded in God has a chance, because there is nothing else left. The modern world can surely not be far from the brink.
We must not fret
“We must not fret over our own imperfections.”
~St. Francis de Sales