As we look back our current year, many of us might have a similar sentiment: “How did that happen?” Some will even ask God, “Why did you allow this to happen (to me / my loved ones / the people I know or care about)?” Tragedies and sufferings are hard to comprehend and understand. Even with those who have a strong faith, it is still perfectly fine to be perplexed. Often times in our faith journey, there are many events and reasons that caused us to ponder His timing or permission to let things happened the way they did without our control or understanding. It gets frustrating when many when we do not understand the mind and will of the Lord in the midst of suffering, tragedies, or losses. Yet, this essential reality of our faith and human struggles, at the same time, is the foundation of our theocentric journey and the springboard of our trust in Him. So, I am not here to try to solve all of your problems or give you appropriate answers to all of your “why” questions. I hope to begin a conversation that you can process (and one day, finish) with the Almighty through prayers.
When something tragic or unexpected happens, the immediate reaction would be doubt in God‘s goodness, especially His will and omnipotent, as to why He allowed something like that to happen to us or someone we know or care about. Nevertheless, too many people stopped short with anger and never took it to prayer. It is very easy to be stuck in our present stage of frustration, resentment, and doubt that we stop immediately on our track. We often let our pains and sufferings and their doubts stop us short instead of making them into opportunities to pray — even in tears, not knowing what to say, and, at times, with escalating anger, too. We often think that we need eloquent or sufficient words to pray, yet we forget that while even though it is wonderful to be able to put into words what we would like to lift our hearts to God for, He understands our hearts and listens to our pains as well.
Even in our sufferings and pains, it is important to have healthy and realistic expectations of reality. Too often times, we tend to think that things somehow need to be better or always turn out good for us. There is often a sense of ego-centered unrealistic expectations of life and others. We are almost all guilty of this as Americans because we think that we have too many things on our plate and are busy enough, therefore nothing should be out of the ordinary. We expect (and often demand) that things are in order and work out as we like them to be! We often think it is the Lord‘s job to guarantee that things go right as we desire and expect because we do not like to be shaken, waves made, or being caught off guard. Nevertheless, in our daily redundancy and its numbing effects, we often lose focus on the small moments of wonder and awe, Who gives us life, and what is important in life until they are gone or taken away from us. There is often a sense of ignorance of what is really going on and what is important because we are too distracted in trying to do everything. Nonetheless, too many of us ended up not beholding, cherishing, and embracing the people and things that matter and are important.
If we do not have a relationship with God and able to lift our hearts up to Him in prayer as to trust in His presence, it becomes easy to have a sense of entitlement, as if we deserve everything and anything we like because He only exists as a provider, genie, or lucky buddha that grants us our wishes and desires. We get stuck in a transactional mindset, thinking that we do certain things, the Lord is obliged to take care of us. We often have an “If I rub your back, you rub mine!” mentality when it comes to faith, yet this is an impoverished, manipulative, and prideful understanding of a relationship, lest a faith-centered one with the Creator. It is too easy to say that we believe in God, yet making ourselves the sole standard and criterion of judgment because things are judged and measured according to likings. We love to have the Lord in our pocket as to use Him when He is needed but put away when He is done with what we need. Sadly, this is nothing more than egotistical manipulation and its unrealistic demands! To believe is not about having everything right but to know deep from within that we are not alone. To have faith in God is not about having everything our way but to know that He will never abandon us, for He is always with us in our trials and everyday struggles.
If we judge our faith solely on what the Lord can do for us according to our egocentric, self-created expectations or the materialistic standards of this world, we will often end up being unhappy and frustrated because things do not work out as we like and we do not get what we want. If those materialistic and prosperity standards are the only gauges of God‘s faithfulness and goodness, we are just waiting for reasons to walk away and abandon the relationship once something fails or happens beyond our given expectations. If we focus only on our self and what is good for us according to our standards, it will seem futile to seek, desire, and will the good of others, especially for the greater good of all. In a very socially disconnected world, it is very for us to become individualistic and self-focused. Yet, the self is never satisfied.
The irony is that when we become self-focused, we seldom are happy with our very self. It is too easy to focus on what we do not have, what we should have, or deserved instead of what we really possess as blessings. Second, when we become focused on our very self, it is easy to become blind-sighted with ourselves and miss the opportunity to see the needs of others. When we are too worried about letting the universe and things evolve around us, we become burdened, entitled, and unhappy at the same time because there is always something wrong or not up to our standards, because we think we deserve more than what is giving to us now.
I had been intrigued and watched many episodes of Daredevil on Netflix. Even though Matthew Murdock is blind, God has given him other heightened senses. He is able to “see” reality, especially injustices, more than those who have their regular sight who are too worried about their own problems and focused on their own goods. He is one of the more religious characters in the Marvel universe because he often consults his priest and seeks counsel. He has a lot of doubts and struggles with his own life’s decisions (even loses faith in God) at times, too. Even though he struggles and fails at times, he always tries to do what is right, Matt is able to see beyond his own self and try to do what is good, especially seeking real justice and the greater good. He does not have any supernatural power, just an ordinary guy with the (heightened) gift of being able to sense things and people being present around him. Therefore, being heroic is not always about having power, money, prestige, influence, or something special. It just takes ordinary people and the willingness to be aware, in tune, and courageous in doing what is right beyond themselves, willing the greater good of all, and seeking the truth in God.
Life is not fair. Things will not always be perfect. We do not always get what we want. People will hurt us. There are hundreds of reasons to give up, locked up in our own self-created pities or hellish circles. There are thousands of excuses to be unhappy, bitter, and resentful as we doubt the Lord‘s goodness, why did He not allow things to happen the ways we want them to be or as we like them to be in our own timing. Yet, when we focus too much on secondary matters and how things need to be for us to be happy, we begin to create unrealistic expectations of life and others. Let us be careful not to let our pride stands in the way, as well as our attachment to our very self-created standards, especially materialistic goods and quantifiable possessions that make us lose our joy on the journey. Even at the foot of the Cross, the Blessed Mother believed. Even in their sufferings and hardships, the Saints faithfully persevered and abide by Christ. Therefore, let us try our best to emulate their courage and imitate their faith. Let us see beyond what is holding us back and love the Lord in the midst of everything that might hold us down.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.