In our post-modern world, when we try to seek audiobooks, podcasts, or some types of written literature about religion, we often end up finding them next to the self-help section. Even though it is a subtle and often overlooked labeling system, it also manifests a very dangerous understanding of what is consists of faith. It is sad when we equate religions as different ways or methods to better our own self as if they are only different varieties and tools for us to reach and activate the fullest potentials of the best version of ourselves.
However, is that true faith? Is faith only to exist to help us achieve what we want? Are God‘s only purpose and existence to be our cheerleader or the person to make things right as we like them to be? If faith is only to inspire and encourage us, we become the principal actor and everything around us, including God, only exists as supporting roles. Enlightenment becomes self-centered, for it is defined and dependent on our liking since we think we have the ability to choose or pick whatever we like to fit our lifestyle. In a very sad way, religions become religiosity, transactional and impersonal acts of doing something to get something back in return. With this way of life, there is no real commitment or sacrificial desires as shallow religiosity makes us become more self-serving.
This is not true faith, especially for us who are Christians! To be Christians is to be disciples, by choosing to leave everything behind and to follow the Lord who called us. It lies in our personal ability to say, “Your will be done!” and not, “My will be done!” True faith requires us to leave our very self and what we expect, demand, or desire for ourselves behind in order to truly trust, give and follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. Instead of asking God only be there to meet our demands, expectations, and desires to be in control, we learn to let go and let God (be God)! Many times, our faith journey will require us to trust in the Lord even though it makes no intellectual sense, not appealing to our emotional or sentimental levels, or up to our liking.
Just like St. Peter before his calling who worked hard all night without any catch of fish, Simon Peter was challenged by the Lord who asked him to “cast into the deep!” Even though he doubted in the “expertise” of the Teacher, he trusted and cast his net into the deep: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your commands, I will lower my nets.” Not only did the Lord‘s invitation led him to trust, but the fisherman was amazingly given the gift of a miraculous catch through the generosity of the One who asked for his own generosity. This initial trust motivated him and his friends to leave everything behind to follow the Master. “Do not be afraid; from this moment, you will be fishers of men!” (cf. Luke 5:1-11)
This beautiful scene personified the whole mission and purpose of discipleship that the Lord Jesus Christ desires and invites each and every one of us to follow in our own particular state of life, too. “Duc in altum! (Cast into the deep!)” then becomes our mission to trust in the Lord even though we will have our initial and natural reservations, fears, and doubts. That is why the Christian journey is a journey of letting God leads us by the hand, learning to let go and allow Him to lead us to new roads. Even though we might get lost or find ourselves at different forks at different times, we can always take the time to discern, reflect, and pray where we are at. We will, of course, make mistakes and be lost, too, especially when we want to venture out on our own or make decisions without seeking His divine will. However, even when we are lost or take a longer time than others, we all know of the finish line, the end goal, and where our hope lies!
I have several suggestions when you and I feel unsure of our life decisions or when we feel lost.
First, learn to call out to the Lord: “My God, I’m so lost now… I’m hurt… I don’t know what to do… I’m in pain… I need you!” Do not be afraid to come to Him even though we might not know what to say, even when we are so overwhelmed with life itself. After we come to Him in prayer, take the time to retrace back to where we had left Him because we were too occupied, busy, or worried about chasing our own goals and dreams. The Lord is always there waiting for us to return back to Him! Therefore, do not be afraid to go back to where we last forgot or left Him in our own ventures. Third, learn to read the signs that He left for us in the Scriptures and through the Church as lamposts to lead us back to His love. It takes time, but the Lord never leaves us lost and always leaves the light for us to go back when we are lost in the darkness of the night. Lastly, take the time to learn from our mistakes and pray, discern, and reflect on our future possibilities in accordance to His will.
As with anything, discernment is not something innate. It is a skill to be learned with time, and oftentimes, with trials and errors. Nevertheless, we do have to take the time to truly sit down, be honest with ourselves, and lay out everything that we have as to learn to seek what is divinely beneficial for us, especially what we have learned and come to conclude of His will for us. Sometimes, it will require us to stay calm enough so that the reactionary and initial sentiments are subsided and sifted. Other times, it will require us to rise above what is apparently attractive and appealing at the moment. Just like a child who has to learn to distinguish and recognize his or her parents’ voices and presences among others, we will also have to learn to recognize the presence of God and His voice in the midst of many noisy things that try to silence and shut Him out.
It is not easy, and at times, challenging but do not be afraid! We all have to learn to trust, let go, and follow Him instead of locking ourselves behind what is comfortable or appealing for us. We have to let go of our egocentric self in order to seek our true self who is hidden underneath all of the things that we have built up to hide its fragility. It is not easy but the faith journey is one of adventure! The Lord will reveal and show us many things that we never expect or ever imagined, leading us to places and things that we can never think could happen in our lives. There will be times that we will doubt, as well as kicking and screaming, for sure. However, the journey that He will lead us will strengthen our soul to receive the greatness of His love, sanctify our vision and mission as to fully live the vocation and calling that He has given to us, and to be more focused on the everlasting end goal of eternal life to spend in love with Him. Therefore, do not be afraid, let go and let God. Let us say to Him, “I will trust you and follow you, Lord!”