Working with many United States Air and Space Forces personnel and family members, I can see the first-hand effects of war. From PTSD to depression, anxiety attacks to anger issues, from unknown and unseen hurts to unknowingly hurting others because of the hurts deep from within. Even though many of us can see or feel that one is hurting, it is not always easy to talk and acknowledge the hurts because these matters are delicate, personal, and very intimate to the person.
What hurts one person might be totally different for the other person but not everyone is willing to talk about what is hurting them. It is hard to be vulnerable and transparent, and it is much harder to accept that these scars will not magically go away… However, one has the ability to accept to live with them instead of being controlled by them. As people who would like our lives to be perfectly planned, compartmentalized, and in control, it is extremely hard for us to accept the imperfect reality and its creative tensions. Even though what hurts us might not go away, we can learn to acknowledge, accept, reflect, and respond in loving and faithful ways.
First, let us recognize that, even with our best intentions, we can still get hurt by the unplanned matters of life. Even with our kindest actions, people can still hurt us. Even with our most genuine desires to love, we can still be taken advantage of and manipulated by ill-willed people. Even with our most faith-filled preparations, we will be caught off guard by people, situations, and challenges that would bring us doubt, resentment, and despair. Therefore, it is important that we have a healthy and balanced understanding of ourselves, be willing to deepen our relationship with God, and be grounded in His divine presence so that we have a strong anchor when the challenging times come.
I think we have done a good job of promoting a healthier lifestyle in this modern world, encouraging people to exercise and eat right, but I do not think we have spent enough time encouraging people to do the same thing spiritually. While many are more physically healthy and fit, their spiritual life often remains poor and weak. Many have allowed themselves to chase after things that are appealing and momentary satisfying, be filled with empty and passing matters, and have no personal will to fight against temptations. We tend to immediately give in to what is appealing. We easily give up when we are attacked by the demonic lies or get filled with their false temptations (without putting up a good fight). Therefore, we might look good and fit on the outside, our souls are poor, weak, and frail. Many of us cannot withstand the attacks of the evil one or the lies that he sets out for us because we have never taken the time to exercise, strengthen, and deepen our relationship with God.
Too many people in our world have given up too easily on their battles! We have lost the understanding of what it means to mature and grow through faithfulness, perseverance, and courage. It has been too easy to walk away and give up instead of choosing to stay in the storm and to grow in the hurt, especially to choose to will the good of others, love, sacrifice, and make reparation when there are not any obvious incentives to do so. Nevertheless, true love is not some passing matters, beneficial exchanges, political advantages, or the ability to do whatever is personally good, appealing, or as we think we are free or like to do. It takes much perseverance, prudence, courage, and faithfulness, as well as supernatural grace, to stay, love, and will the good of others, keep on growing and loving when it seems to be more humanly advantageous to abandon and choose other appealing choices.
The Devil does not tempt us by telling us whatever is objectively wrong right away. He tempts us by telling us lies that make one or some particular goods become more focused than the ultimate good. He reels us in by making us more dependent on him, addicted and enslaved to the things that he has to offer, hence making us hopeless, despair, and resentful because even though we are not happy, we are scared to escape or let go because we have become too dependent on him or those matters. Those who are enslaved by the Devil might seem to have it all on the outside, to be envied by others, but they are never happy. Their souls are wretched and dark because they have been engulfed by evil and its wicked power. They want to get away but they are so scared to let go of what they think makes them hedonistically satisfying, appealing, prestigious, wealthy, powerful, or the likes.
The only way to overcome what is diabolically appealing, immediately urging, deceptive, enslaving, and controlling is to worship God and follow His law more than what is good for us. The Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, precepts and moral teachings of the Church are there to help us avoid the seven deadly and mortal sins that kill our souls deep from within. Furthermore, it is important to return back to the sacraments, especially to confess our sins in order to receive the necessary sacramental grace given to us by Christ and His Church. This act of humility is important because it makes us dependent on God instead of our own ego.
When we failed at times to live according to His commandments and loving truth, simply confess our faults and failures to His representative — the priest — and receive the proper grace through the Church. Only through the act of humility can we be freed from our pettiness to justify our own selves and fragile egoistical excuses. We are putting God first and ourselves under Him when we are humble enough to recognize that we have sinned against Him and His love for us. It is important that we fight the battle well. Do not give in to temptations right away! We need to learn to fight the good fight and turn ourselves to God when the Devil is attacking us.
Temptations will come and go. Some are harder than others! However, we are not animals or beasts who will give into our urges or appetites right away. We can be strong in the face of the Devil and his minions’ temptations, deceptions, and lies by saying, “You have no power over me! I belong to God. Go back to where you come from, you selfish, damned, and arrogant creature of God. In the name of Christ, I command you to be gone!”
We are not perfect and we will fail at times, but we should never stop trying! We should never be ashamed of who we are as Christians, especially our genuine freedom in the Gospel. We are not perfect but we should never let our will dictates the will of God! In our commitment and simplicity of faith, we give testimony to what His grace had and will continue to do in our lives because we try to love and choose to love in good times and in bad, successes and failures, blessings and challenges of life. We preach Christ Jesus and His love for us expressed on the Cross and in our daily journey. Therefore, let us take courage, not lose heart, and keep on loving Him who loves us! May our mouths keep praising Him now and forever.
Our sins might be obstacles at times, but they are also great “stepping stones” for us to grow in trust and faith. We might fail at times, but we learn to be grounded in His love so as to stand up and walk again with His grace. The saints over the millennia have assured us to trust that the Lord will not abandon those who are sincerely sorry for their sins. He will bestow His abundant grace upon us for the battle.
It is as important to learn how to humbly trust in the Lord, to stand up and walk again when we have failed, and to be strong in Him when we are attacked by the evil one. It is important to be grounded in the Lord and His love for us so we can be both firmly rooted and flexible to withstand the different challenges, storms, and obstacles of our faith journey. Similar to the recovery process, anyone who struggles with overcoming a dependency can tell us that the greatest achievement is to know that even though we might fail from time to time, we have to desire, will, and choose the right choice and trust in the higher power of grace (beyond ourselves) in order to battle well. Even though there are bad days and relapses, we try our best to grow in endurance and perseverance, hence overcoming them through personal trust, sanctification, and especially the divine power of grace. The battle is life-long, and there will be many victories as defeats, blessings as well as challenges. While we can try our best to prepare for some, it is important to humbly trust, stand firm, and persevere in the Lord who is our strength.