“The steps of a man are from the Lord, and he establishes him in whose way he delights; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord is the stay of his hand.” -Psalm 37:23-24
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!” -Psalm 36:9-10
Lots of pondering going on in my heart right now, especially lately. I have many rich blessings of family, friends, involvement and community in my life right now, and yet some big pieces of my life still have not come together, and I struggle daily to recommit myself to trust in God’s will and to keep living a holy life to the best of my abilities. I keep going back to the hope that we find in the Psalms, which tell us over and over that God is faithful to the righteous man, to those who are upright of heart.
The thing is: I think that a tiny part of me has wondered all this time if my crosses are my own fault somehow, maybe that there is something wrong with me that I have just not addressed yet. The idea that if I was good enough, then my life would all come together, that all my endeavors would meet with success, and that God would pull out a miracle for me and fix all of my problems, all at once.
But of course that is a total lie straight from you-know-where.
It’s not about being good enough, or even successful (“God calls us to obedience, not success” Mother Teresa reminds us). It is about living a good and holy life to the best of your understanding and ability. It’s about His mercy. It’s about living the perspective of eternity. It’s about opening our hearts to grace. It’s not about us.
Self-centeredness is never from God–in fact any thoughts or feelings that do not call us to virtue are not from God. So, we can learn over time to call out some of those terrible thoughts and feelings for what they are and not suffer from them so much. As my spiritual director told me, the mind is a very dangerous place, and that we should never go into it alone. We should always bring Jesus with us.
Sometimes bad things happen to good and faithful people, people trying to do nothing but His will. God’s thoughts, plans, and ways are so far above what we can begin to understand. That is the message that repeats itself in the writings of every saint I’ve ever read about, of all Church teaching, and in the message of all of Scripture.
Isaiah reminds us of how far above us are the thoughts of God. But for those of us with hard heads…there’s the book of Job.
My friend Marianne sent out a spiritual reflection a few days ago that I am pretty sure Papa (as she calls Him) meant just for me. I’ll quote her (somewhat paraphrasing), because she put it so well and because I don’t think she’d mind:
I read chapter 38 where God replies to Job after Job asks why so many trials are befalling him after he has tried so hard to live a faithful life. Whenever I read this scripture I always imagine poor Job sitting dejected and miserable, wondering why all this misfortune has come upon him. He suffered so much – the deaths of his family, loss of all he owned, ridiculed, covered with boils and to make matters worse, his friends are telling him that surely he has brought this upon himself!
Job is innocent of any wrongdoing and cries out, “Oh, that I had one to hear my case, and that my accuser would write out his indictment!” In other words, “let me know why this is happening to me!!” The words of God’s powerful reply vibrate on the page, “Who is this that obscures divine plans with ignorance?” Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers!” God continues, “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its size, do you know? Have you ever in your life commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place? Tell me, if you know all: Which way is the dwelling place of light?”
Whew! I’m sure by this time, Job has gotten the point, and so have we.
Chapter 38 in the book of Job is a powerful speech from God reminding us that He is God and we aren’t. There will be things in this life we just don’t understand, but His will is perfect and He knows exactly what we need every minute of every day. Trust Him to lead you through whatever trials or suffering you may have in your life at this time; and, if, Praise God, things are going smoothly for you right now, rejoice that our Redeemer lives!
If we are really and truly living our lives God’s way, and if we are doing what we think to the best of our discernment we are supposed to be doing, then at some point we have to rest in that. Even if we have to rest right in the middle of tragedy, perceived failure, hardship, derision from others, uncertainty…or in skin covered with boils, like Job.
After all, where were we when God founded the earth?! He either knows what He is doing, or He doesn’t.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.” -Psalm 34:19