Striving for a spiritual life

A very common trend I see during Lent is that of folks trying to figure out a spiritual program for Lent–without consulting God on it.  Sometimes God is just asking us to live our lives in a holy way in the day-to-day events in which He has placed us.

There can be so much escapism in our striving for a “spiritual life.”  We often flee from concrete, apparently banal reality that is filled with with God’s presence to an artificial existence that corresponds with our own ideas of piety and holiness but where God is not present. As long as we want to decide for ourselves where we will find God, we need not fear that we shall meet him!  We will meet only ourselves, a touched-up version of ourselves.  Genuine spirituality begins when we are prepared to die.  Could there be a quicker way to die than to let God form our lives from moment to moment and continually to consent to his action?  (Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.)

The answer to many prayers

I was doing some study on Psalm 5 this morning and came across this comment by Amy Carmichael on verse 3:

“’And will look up’, will keep watch, like Habakkuk on his watch-tower.  Have you ever found that your Father has answered a forgotten prayer?  I have, and I always feel so ashamed; it is so rude to forget.  A ‘Prayer-and-Answer Notebook’ helps one to remember.  It is evidence, which even the devil cannot dispute, of traffic with Heaven.  It kindles love; ‘I love the Lord because He hath heard’ (Ps 116.1).  How often we have had cause to say that.  My first note-book turned up among some old papers lately.  To read the notes was like finding sprays of verbena between the leaves of a book; you know how astonishingly fragrant they can be.  There was one little sentence that belonged to a rainy Sunday morning when I was, I suppose, about ten, so that leaf was about sixty years old, but it might have been only just picked, for as I read the words I remembered every detail of that prayer and that answer.

“If any of you keep such a book do not forget that the answer to many prayers is ‘Wait’, or sometimes, ‘No, not that, but something else, which, when you see Me, you will know was a far better thing.’”

Hard-pressed

It’s been a good while since I’ve quoted anything from my friend, Amy Carmichael . . . and she is always so good:

Is 53.7 Hard-pressed–yet He humbled Himself, nor opened His mouth.

The assault of our great enemy comes in waves.  Sometimes we cannot do the work committed to us to do, and this is indeed a trial of faith.  “Hard-pressed” is the word that describes it all.

It is the word spoken of our Lord Jesus in Rotherman’s translation. Hard-pressed–yet He humbled Himself, nor opened His mouth.  To ask why, even to wonder why, is to open our mouth.  Our Lord Jesus Christ shows us the way here as everywhere.  Am I hard-pressed in any direction inward or outward?  The only word I speak must be a word of acceptance  “Even so, Father.”  Underfoot is the rock of Romans 8.28.  Overhead is the banner of Eternal Love.  Nothing is going wrong, however wrong it seems.  All, all is well.

In another form

Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, writes about how important it is for us to have God’s perspective concerning all the events in our lives: “Can it be that that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God?  That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadow above the clouds, light never stops shining.”  Amy Carmichael tackles this issue as well:

Mark 16.12 After that He appeared in another form.

John 16.23 And in that day you shall ask Me nothing.

“We always expect the Lord to come to us in a joy.  Instead of that He sometimes appears in another form, He comes in a big disappointment.

“In the day that we see Him all will be clear.  The mysteries which now perplex us will be illuminated.  One day we shall see the glory to our glorious God and the good to all of us contained in the disappointment we cannot understand.

“So let us live as those who believe this to be true.  Let us praise before we can see.  Let us thank our Lord for trusting us to trust Him.”  (Amy Carmichael)

Try it for yourself

A challenge from Peter Kreeft:

No one who ever said to God, “Thy will be done,” and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy–not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this moment at every moment.  Every other Christian who has ever lived has found exactly the same thing in his own experience.  It is an experiment that has been performed over and over again billions of times, always with the same result.

Try it for yourself.