Why is it so hard to fully trust in God and His plan for us? Why is it so hard for us to be patient in understanding that His timing is much better than ours? Why is it so hard not to doubt or be tempted against God‘s goodness for us? Perhaps there is no perfect answer, but I would like to simply offer some points for prayer and discernment.
First, I got to say that my faith is weak at times. Sometimes, people tend to assume that since I write a lot of spiritual reflections, I should have perfect faith and should be very holy without sins. That is completely false and contrary to who I am! I am a sinner. Like what I have always joked with my parishioners… I am a sinner, and I sin every day — sometimes, twice, or three times a day. I still lack patience, kindness, and charity, as well as struggling with distractions, worries, and doubts. Even though I might be able to be composed most of the time, not showing an emotional reaction to people or things that I dislike or have a hard time with, I still struggle to be completely loving, charitable, and patient with those who are around me.
Even though these humanistic, sentimental, or emotional struggles seem to be ridiculous and do not make sense rationally at times, they are what make us humans. We cannot simply ignore or push away our human qualities because they are parts and extensions of who we are! We are not robots that are programmed to do certain matters and tasks without distractions or worries. We have our sentiments and feelings, and even though they are distractive, burdensome, doubtful, and worrisome at times, they are as valid as obstacles as well as opportunities. They can deter us from being totally united to God in our faith journey just as they are moments of grace for us to grow in how we love and trust the Lord. They can take our focus away from our heart and soul’s desires as much as they help us to seek to love beyond our distractions, emotions, or sentimental matters.
To truly pray and love is to be able to choose the One above others, to choose to trust and be faithful in the midst of many challenges, temptations, and doubts. That is why faith is not just a set of doctrines and commandments alone. It is also something very personal and intimate since it is the most valuable offering that we can give to God from ourselves. There is much power to choose to love and to abide with Christ who is faithful to us even though it gets hard at times!
I love this one particular encounter with St. Teresa of Avila with the Lord because it speaks much about how to love and seek Him in a personal way:
The Sisters thought they had lost Teresa. However, she found herself on the other side of the river with her clothes all wet. She was sad because of the time God had chosen for this to happen.
“Why did you let this happen to me, Lord? especially at this time?” She prayed.
Jesus appeared in front of her, he had a playful smile on his face as he said, “Don’t be sad Teresa, this is how I treat all my good friends.”
Teresa who was happy to see Jesus, was no more in the complaining mood, she playfully replied, “No wonder you’ve got so few friends, my Lord.”
Friendship with the Lord is hard at times. However, it is important to choose to love and to be present to Him. Even when we trust and believe that He is good to us, that He hears our prayers, and cares for us beyond our understanding, doubts still creep in and affect our prayer and spiritual life. We waver on sentimental and emotional grounds! We get distracted and worried, especially when things do not go our way or when it seems that the Lord is not answering us as we would have liked. That is why our humanity is both a blessing and a challenge! Our humanity is challenging because we are personally affected by what is going on around us, by the external and internal factors and elements that clouded and occupied our minds, the opinions of others — even with their best intentions — trying to direct or influence us. Nevertheless, this is what it means to believe, to be faithful, and to remain with the Lord, thus choosing to trust even when it seems hard at times.
When we read the Book of Job and the lives of the Saints, we know that they have all struggled. Even though their faith taught them about the goodness of God and their conscience was cleared against trials, evildoings, challenges, obstacles, and temptations, those matters shook and tested them. Yet, through those attacks and failures, they came to personally choose to embrace the loving presence of God, even in the midst of the storms and trials. Therefore, we, too, do have the ability and personal willingness to truly love and abide with the Lord in our very own life’s ups and downs. Those challenging times, even though they were hard, were also moments of growth and unimaginable manifestations of God‘s tender love.
Faith, hope, and, and love are not just theological virtues to talk and learn about in catechism or spiritual formation class! They are real foundations of who we are as believers, disciples of Christ, instruments of the Holy Spirit, sons and daughters of the Father. Our faith and its understanding of Christ‘s teachings and eternal values strengthens our hope; our hope makes our faith real by grounding it in personal trust; our charity helps us to love Him even when it gets hard. In short, faith, hope, and love make our love for God real, personal, and intimate because we know why and who is the source of our beliefs!
We do not have to have everything together, all lined up, made sense, and perfect. At times, all we can ever do is stand firm, ground ourselves, and hold on to the Lord in our times of trial. This is a personal and intimate knowledge that no one could ever teach or afford to us, for it is something that we have to learn ourselves so that our very being knows who God is and chooses to be with Him in the midst of many challenges, changes, obstacles, trials, and hardships.
I would like to end this reflection with another short story between St. Teresa of Avila and the Child Jesus.
It happened when she saw a young unrecognized child walking in the cloistered courtyard of her convent. She greeted the child, to which she was asked: “Who are you?” She replied, “I am Teresa of Jesus.” She, then, asked the child who He was, to which He answered, “I am Jesus of Teresa.”
Hence, in this short exchange, we can replace St. Teresa‘s name with our own name and we would see what it means to believe and know who the Lord is for us. He is Jesus of our heart, soul, body, and being! If He knows and loves us, we are, then, His beloved. Therefore, no matter what happened or might happen, may we choose to remain with Him, to pray, to be faithful, and to give our all to Him through all the sentimental and emotional ups and downs of life. He is truly worth loving and giving our everything!