Faith means a lot of things for a lot of people. Yet, the to believe as Christians require a deeper sense of commitment and giving of one’s self freely and completely to God. That is not easy! It is not easy to have faith when there are sufferings involved. We often asked ourselves when trials and hardships happened, “Why do I have to believe when I’m suffering so much? Is there really God (that cares for me)? Is this faith even really worth it at the end?” To be honest, even the holiest and faith-filled people are challenged and have questioned the timing of divine providence at times when sufferings happen. All the things that happen and will happen in life bring us back to the essential question of whether suffering is worth enduring for the sake of faith, especially what it means to believe in God and who is He for us.
As a priest, I come to face and deal with a lot of sufferings. I have seen (and personally experienced) sufferings due to tragedies, health, or caused by others. Those situations are not easy, for sufferings hurt. They hurt more when we are losing someone or something important in our lives. At those moments, it hurts to trust and believe that our God who is all loving could permit things to happen in this particular time or person. Yet, those were also moments that I learned to love and trust Him more than my emotions and sentiments. Those were the moments when I grew in own faith, kicking and screaming at times, as to truly feel and understand deep within my soul that God is always with me and He has never abandoned me. Those were the invitations to trust and abide with Him even though I do not logically comprehend or intellectually grasp the reasoning or timing of human actions (and divine permission). Through those episodes, I had come to learn to embrace natural and human imperfections and failures, especially to understand that they do not constitute or define divine goodness and love. It took a long time for me — as I was going through those trials — to go beyond my own self-created expectations of how things should be and look at they are, reconcile and bring all things to prayers, and be at peace with the (bigger) reality that is in the Almighty who looks at all matters from the eternal scope. I have learned as a person, a Christian, and a priest that things do not always have to be right for me to believe. My love for God is not dependent on how He is supposed to provide for me and my desires or wants, it is based on His everlasting faithfulness and unbroken promise of love for me. I try to look back in my life and how He has been caring and loving me more than what I could have imagined and expected in order to keep myself grounded in love when things get chaotic and myopic. My heart knows and loves Him even though my mind cannot comprehend what is going on at the moment.
When I am in doubt, I try to still myself, talk to a priest or a confidant that I trust (who loves God). I try to widen my vision beyond the present problems and hurts so that they do not choke the life and joy out of me. I have learned to come to prayers in tears, in frustration, in anger, and in doubt, but try to wrap every session and prayer with, “Lord, I don’t know what’s going on, but I trust in you! Please help my unbelief.” I have learned through many failures and mistakes to never stop praying because this is exactly what the Devil wants us to do! When we are hurt and in doubt, it is very easy for him to manipulate and play with our feelings and emotions to blindsight us, causing us to be locked in our own self-pity and despair. Yet, to make known what hurts us to those who are wise, help us see another perspective that we are too preoccupied to see for ourselves. It also makes us be grounded in reality with life-giving friendship, trusting in the love of those who care for us or those whom God puts in our lives in times of need. It takes a lot of vulnerability and humility to ask for help, but it is very necessary because we are asked to be honest and reveal our struggles and their pains. In all honesty, I think that I can recall all the times the love of God and His consoling presence in those who were put in my life when I was going through trials.
To believe is not to have everything works out as we would like, nor is faith the assurance that everything will be perfect. It is a personal and intimate knowledge that God cares for us and He loves us. He loves us so much that He will never abandon us and desires to lead us back to Him, spending eternity basking in His love! Nevertheless, the journey there is not easy. The Sacred Scriptures often used images of the Cross to describe the correlation of our hardships and Christ‘s own sufferings, as well as moving from slavery to the Promised Land, having to go through the desert of trials. It is scary to be in the desert, hard when a particular cross is upon our shoulders, and disheartening when we do not know when it will all end. However, we are reminded that the desert is not the final destination, it is the Promised Land; the Cross is not the end, it is the resurrection that makes all things new.
Sanctus Real has a wonderful song named, “Confidence,” with a great chorus. I would like to include it for your reference:
So give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den;
Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness.
Give me a heart like David, Lord, be my defense;
so I can face my giants with confidence.
Therefore, do not be afraid. The great figures of the Bible and the saints did not go through life easy, as if it was handed to them on a platter. They went through trials and hardships to understand what it truly means to be great in the Lord! They had to learn that true greatness is not dependent on them or their ability to have all things right but that to know that all things are possible with the Lord. They had to learn that life does not have to be perfect, as it is often filled with trials, but the Almighty was always with them as He is with us so we can face all things in confidence with His everlasting promise.
I would like to end this reflection by asking you these three questions as you and I contemplate on our own faith in the midst of life’s journey with all its trials and hardships. Take some time to think about the answers and may the peace of the Lord be with you.
- How are you living our faith? What does it mean for you?
- What does faith offer you?
- What do you hope to hear from God our Father when it all ends?