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Surrender

I’ve held out hope for a long time that I would see a day when all my past hurts would go away completely, that I’d eventually be just totally OK, that I’d be able to be in the same room with someone whose very presence excites me without being terrified of what they think of me, ashamed that I care this much, or lonely and reminded of old wounds when they were gone. That day still hasn’t come. And I’m not sure it will in this life. And I think that’s OK.

See, our God isn’t a snow-plough God (thank you, Fr. Dan Pattee, for that analogy). It’s not as if, the moment we through ourselves upon the Lord, we’ll never experience pain again. The love of the Lord doesn’t always move mountains. Sometimes it just carries us until we can start climbing again. Sometimes it’s just the next breath we take into our lungs.

And that’s OK. That’s enough.

Our hope isn’t for this world, this life. Our hope is for Heaven. It feels so far off sometimes, like a distant dream, but it’s real. It’s there, waiting for us through the dark door of death. It’s the light on the other side of the dark sepulchre that radiates back on the entirety of our lives and makes it all worth it.

Guys, this is what St. Paul means when he says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) It’s not that there are no sufferings. It’s that they can’t compare to the glory of Heaven, the sheer magnificence of finally being united forever with the God who loved us so much that He created us, and loved us too much to leave us when we left Him, and loves us too much to leave us alone even now. This is the great mystery of learning to suffer in the shadow of the cross: to learn that it’s enough that He came to us, that He died for us.

In coming into our world he came also into our suffering. He sits beside us in the stalled car in the snowbank. Sometimes he starts the car for us, but even when He doesn’t, He is there. That is the only thing that matters. Who cares about cars and success and miracles and long life when you have God sitting beside you? (Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering)

The greatest moment of healing in my life was not when I stopped having anxiety attacks, or the first month I went without feeling like I was shrouded in gloom, or the first time I could say hello to a guy I wanted to know better without dying inside. It was when, in a time of distressed prayer, God took me back in my memory to the most painful moment of my life, laying crying in my bed, hating myself, my dreams going up in flames around me and my view of the future completely darkened, and showed me that He was there, sitting on the side of my bed, crying with me, and hearing my desperate prayer that I needed Him to love me, even though I wasn’t sure if He could. Even before we know how to love our own broken selves, He loves us. He’s there. He’s with us. He already died, knowing full well what you would turn out to be. There is nothing you can do, no one you can become, that will make God stop loving you. He came. And He meant it. He came FOR YOU.

We believe in a God who loved us so much that He came and died for us so that we could spend eternity with Him.

So when you suffer, even if it’s the millionth time in a row that you find yourself crying and alone, even if the darkness feels like it’s been there from the beginning and will never go away, remember this:

You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy, and turn not aside, lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not fail; you who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for everlasting joy and mercy. You who fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts will be made radiant. Consider the ancient generations and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? Or who ever persevered in his commandments and was forsaken? Or who ever called upon him and was overlooked? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in times of affliction, and he is the shield of all who seek him in truth.

If you, like me, are struggling, go to the foot of the cross. Pour out your heart. Wait, and cry, and let the Lord hold you in His arms outstretched on the cross. Let your wounded heart rest in the Sacred Heart pierced for us. Wait upon His comfort, and let Him love you. LET HIM LOVE YOU. Let Him see and hold close to Himself all that you hold closest and deepest within yourself.

I know I’ve said this over and over AND OVER AGAIN. But each time, it rings with a little more sincerity, a little more clarity. Even if all we do is echo a truth until our very lives echo it, we’ve done well. And right now, that means stepping back from my ambitions, my new hopes and dreams, and allowing myself to remember that I still carry scars and wounds. Right now, it means learning how to live with them rather than shoving them aside. Right now, it means learning how to carry the wounds of Christ, to let my soul be His sepulchre, in which both His death and resurrection are reflected into the lives of those around me.

The Song that Inspired this Reflection

God bless, fam.

 

What I Long For

Three years ago, I still had anxiety attacks and often ditched my friends just to feel like I could breathe without choking. Three years ago, I still broke down crying every week and laid on the floor with music blasting in my ears to quiet all the sad thoughts running through my head. Three years ago, I was still hoping and praying my life would be short because I didn’t know how to cope.

Three years ago. There’s something that feels so distant yet so intimate about that. It’s so close that to remember still makes my heart ache, and yet so far that it usually feels more like a bad dream than a memory. I’m forever changed by the years I spent carrying these crosses, but I’m not defined by them. If anything, I think they just uncovered who I was all along.

Look, I don’t know what many of you are going through right now. Suffering is so much more than a single defining moment or the words we try to use to describe it. Deep down, really, only Christ can reach those hurts we can’t express, those unseen twinges and unspoken groans. Only He can really hold us right where the hurt is. Only the Holy Spirit can help us to pray with sighs too deep for words, as Romans tells us.

But the love of another human being makes all the difference. When you stop to listen, to hug, to laugh with or to cry with a brother or sister, it shows them it’s possible that they’re loved, that they aren’t doomed to be stuck in their own heads amidst their own tumultuous thoughts forever.

Three years ago, I poured out my heart, all my brokenness that I hated, my most shameful secret, and someone said, “I don’t care. I love you.” That has made all the difference.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again and again and again long after you’re sick of hearing it: I see you, I hear you, I know you, and I love you. Seriously. You. Reading this right now. I so wish I could hug each and every one of you close and tell you how much you mean to me. But I’ll settle for knowing you know that whatever your struggle, whatever your shame that you carry around with you…I don’t care. I love you. The God Who fashioned you died for love of you. I may not see your beauty and worth as clearly as he does, but I do see it. And gosh dangit, I want to show you.

P.S. I totally meant the hug thing. Seriously, ask me anytime for a hug. That’s my jam.

St. Raphael, pray for us.

A Song Unsung

Impetuous, my lately love, am I

in letting love this fragile frame imbibe;

your sapphire eyes are water to these dry

and burning bones. I wish I could inscribe

your name upon my heart eternally,

but nay, ’tis not to be. You? I? My dear,

the love I wish for us can never be–

love? Nay, nay, but mere passion…fierce, I fear.

Dear one, may I yet stay, and love thee true,

with kindness, care, and groaning heart? Though strung

like harp strings, heart aflame, my song to you

shall be restrained, with few notes ever sung.

Unbridled though my yearning ever be,

I shall but love and let thy heart by free.

Memento Mori

Recall the day the Tree of Life was shorn

of verdant life and pierced by iron nails,

when darkness, groaning, veiled the dying morn

while stones took up the trembling and wails.

Recall the day when earth and sky screamed out,

“Creator scorned, O creatures!, whence thy hope?”

Remember blood of God-Made-Man, the shout

of stone-cold tomb, salvation’s envelope.

Recall, recall, sweet soul, how blood gave birth

to sons and daughters from a granite womb,

Creation’s moans now sprung from fruitful girth

while souls by flood are washed into the tomb;

once more recall: as old life’s morning dies,

creation new from sepulchre will rise.

We Don’t Know

After the words in Gethsemane come the words uttered on Golgotha, words which bear witness to the depth–unique in the history of the world–of the evil of the suffering experienced. When Christ says: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, His words are not only an expression of that abandonment which many time found expression in the Old Testament…One can say that these words on abandonment are born at the level of that inseparable union with the Father, and are born because the Father “laid on him the iniquity of us all.” –St. JPII, Salvifici Doloris, IV 18

So far so gut-wrenching…

Brethren, there is consensus among the saints that one of the most spiritually wholesome practices is to meditate on the Passion of Christ. Many of us who look to Christ on the cross as the source of our salvation are quick indeed to remember the physical agony which he underwent; yet this was not His definitive suffering, the suffering which ultimately conquered the reign of sin and death and suffering in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, His physical pain was so beyond excruciating that none of us will ever comprehend it, because in His perfection, His senses were likely all the more sensitive to/aware of pain. Yet the most acute suffering, the suffering that encompassed the full brunt of evil and won for us salvation, was something much more incomprehensibly horrific.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that each of us, at one time or another, has experienced the feeling of being separated from God. Whether due to being in the midst of suffering when He withdraws consolation for a deeper union, or due to our deliberate turning away from Him in sin, we’ve all experienced it or will experience it. And it sucks. There is nothing worse, brethren, than looking in all the places where you know God is, and yet feeling as though He isn’t there, or doesn’t care.

This pain comes from once having had some level of union with God and then having lost it. The deeper our union with Him, the more painful the apparent or actual separation.

So what must it be like to be in complete union with God, to literally share the exact same nature, to be eternally bound in love to Him, and in the incomprehensible depth of that union, to experience through human nature utter separation from and rejection by Him?

Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the “entire” evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of His filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God. But precisely through this suffering He accomplishes the Redemption, and can say as He breathes His last: “It is finished.” –Ibid.

We cannot even begin to imagine, brethren, what intense suffering it was for Christ, through His humanity, to experience, by the depth of His intimate union with the Father, separation from Him.

There is a scene in The Passion by Mel Gibson, during the crucifixion, when Christ cries out in His agony, “They don’t know…they don’t know…”, as they nail His feet into the wooden block. And He’s almost looking out through the screen, like He’s looking at you, at me. I’m going to post a link to that scene below. (Viewer discretion, this is brutal; it holds nothing back regarding the horrific brutality that was the crucifixion.) It’s about 4 minutes in. All I ask is that you watch those brief moments, let Him look into your eyes as He moans, “They don’t know”. And humble yourself. Recognize that you don’t have the beginning of an inkling of how deep, how intense, how horrific was the pain that your sins brought to Christ on the cross, wounding not only His body but the very depths of His being.

Then let it hit you that it’s you He’s praying for, that it’s you He’s dying for, that it’s you He’s loving even as you drive a nail into His feet and a wedge between Him and the Father.

And rejoice, even as you are humbled, that you are loved, that you are freed.

Enter into the mystery that is the suffering love of Christ that won for us our salvation.

A Price Worth Paying

In one sense, it would be incredibly easy to write an “end-of-semester” post. There’s so much I learned, so many ways in which I grew.

But in another, it’s pretty much impossible. Too much goes on in my head in one day; there’s no way to get it all out there.

It’s questionable whether there’s even a point to writing a post like that for this blog. But let me at least say this: For the first time, leaving campus was hard for me. Incredibly hard, actually. And that makes me rather happy, because it means that there was something I had there that meant enough to me that to lose it, even for a seemingly short time, was painful.

For the first time in a long time, I knew I had friends so close that they were practically family.

God works unbelievably slow sometimes, it’s true. I waited years to find friends so close as these. But it happened. God brought these amazing people into my life, and finally convinced me to pry my heart open to them. It’s difficult and painful to not be with them, and even being with them is hard sometimes, but every moment is worth it.

They’ve taught me something, too: that I can do more than just survive the storms of life and the trials I go through, I can actually thrive in them. Even if all I can manage is a smile, I’ve conquered something. I’ve had a little victory I can share with the Lord and Mama Mary. (Seriously, try sharing one of those with them sometime, you will not believe how proud they are of you!!)

And the thing is, even if we’re in the middle of a waking nightmare, the beauty of life, the immensity of God’s love, and the intoxicating preciousness of each and every person walking the face of this earth is untouched. What more reason need we to rejoice?

Holy Week: A Journal Pt. 6

Good Friday

The sound of tears is only outdone by the shattering of hearts all around. It seems wrong in a way that today should be so beautiful, with a bright, sun-filled sky and flowers beginning to bloom everywhere. Only the leafless trees seem to understand, and even they are putting forth buds.

But they’re right, in another way.

We ought to mourn today. We ought to cry, to grieve, or to sit in silent reflection. Our hearts ought to be broken when we look at the wounds of Christ and hear His prayer for our forgiveness, when we see Mary weep as she kisses the feet of her Son, when we hear the soldier cry out in faith as his heart turns violently in His chest.

And yet, there ought to be just a whisper of a promise echoing still in our hearts, and echo that nature itself seems to speak today.

This is not the end.

It’s a beginning.

Unsafe, Undone, Unquestionably Loved

God often teaches us deep truths through some pretty odd yet magnificent, if occasionally (or frequently) painful, ways. I think He’s been doing a little bit of that the past few weeks. And months. And years…Funny how it’s only now that I’m seeing some of them unfold.

First, a true fix to any problem is never immediate; it’s slow, gradual, and intimate. This past week, I was inducted (FINALLY) into my household, called Fishers of Men, and I have grown so incredibly close to my brothers and love them dearly. I honestly cannot express how very dear they are to my heart and how blessed I am to call them my brothers. Yet the anxiety over whether I am truly accepted, the dark memories of past failed friendships–in short, all the things that originally held me back–though lessened, continue to haunt me. Even though the past is past, it has made an imprint on my heart that will never be fully erased, or at least not for quite some time; so the Lord seems to be indicating. The healing of my heart is something that will take years to complete, something that the Lord will do in stages through His grace and through those He has placed and will place in my life.

Second, God’s love doesn’t change because of how we feel. Somehow, that’s magnificently freeing: God’s love for me doesn’t depend on my emotions, my actions, my anything. It is wholly and incomprehensibly unconditional. I could go on, but no pen, no page, could ever encapsulate the boundless love of God.

Third, life just sucks sometimes, and you have to look to God for the strength and hope to continue to live and believe you are loved. The crosses I have to carry right now are such that I have to constantly turn to God in prayer just to make it through some days. His love always comes, sometimes as a beautiful encounter with Him, other times just as the next breath in my lungs. But He always comes.

And altogether, I see that God is teaching me that His plan is utterly mysterious, that it’s anything but what we expect, and that it often calls for changes so radical that they bring us to tears, pull us to our knees.

And that’s OK.

Because His will isn’t arbitrary. He isn’t just putting us through things to see us suffer, or with no particular purpose in mind for us. He’s got an end goal in mind for us: Heaven, where we won’t cry any more, we won’t be in pain anymore, we won’t know anything but joy and love and peace. Every trial, every cross, every tear–it’s all a chance to move one step closer to Heaven by trusting in God and letting Him be our strength, by not giving up but living on in hope and courage. He sends His Holy Spirit to us to comfort and strengthen us. He gives us Mary as our mother and intercessor. He gives us His very self in the Sacraments.

His love…it’s just…incomprehensible. And so intimate. I just can’t even say it enough times. Even when I’m shaking violently, or crying profusely, I can’t stop professing His love, because it’s His love that keeps me alive, that comforts me, that gives me hope, that lets me have moments of peace, joy, and happiness.

So if the pain is coming back again, bring it. If it’s the price I pay for loving God and others, it’s worth it.

Balancing on Barbed Wire

It’s one thing to feel nothing, another to feel everything and be overwhelmed. It’s something completely different to have both experiences at the same time: to be so overwhelmed by feeling that you feel nothing, and yet still somehow you feel everything, but just as a bombardment.

It’s a blessing to be a fantastic listener. It’s a curse to have everyone know it and pour out their heart to you. Yet it’s a blessing to know that you’ve been a great help and a good friend by using that gift.

It’s in my nature to care deeply for others. It’s also in my nature to be deeply pained by caring.

I love to give love and to receive love. But it hurts to love, and I don’t always believe it when I’m told I’m loved.

I love solitude. Yet I am terrified of loneliness. Social situations are an ordeal for me, but I crave them.

So I hang in the balance…literally. I’m like a pendulum, swinging from deep giving of myself to complete isolation, from ignoring what I feel to being crushed by it all. I guess the question is whether I’ll find a balance.

Except I’m not entirely sure I want that.

Maybe enough swings into the places I fall apart will finally shatter the barriers. Maybe someday my sojourns into the silence will be in peace rather than searching for it. Maybe the more I give, the less I’ll need after all.

I guess I’ve always kind of been a go-between: between charismatics and traditionalists, between the quiet at heart and the boisterous in spirit, and (by the grace of God alone, goodness knows why He chose me) between Love and the beloved. Maybe I’m not so much a pendulum as a keeper of a bridge, a pilot of a ferry. My back and forth might be more like a service to others than a personal journey. It’s just a long, hard journey in-between.

And maybe I’m totally wrong.

But whatever the case, I know this much: I’m not going to stop following my guiding star, the Crucified One, the King of the Empty Grave, my Prince of Peace.

A Midnight Musing

I remember a time I loathed the idea I might have some limitation, some handicap. I always knew I had seemingly odd differences, but I began to see them as no longer neutral but profoundly negative. I trembled at the terrible notion that I might be terribly held back. And yet the stark reality of my own weaknesses, my difference from the world around me, was staring me in the face and daring me to discover its source, tossing up the most horrible possible answers. More horrible still, I latched onto the worst possible answer and hinged my life on that assumption about myself, about who, or maybe more accurately what, I was.

Three years later, I would discover this was false, that I had believed a lie. Or half a lie. I was wrong about WHY I was different. But if those three nightmarish years taught me anything, they confirmed more fully in me that I truly was different, limited, and in some sense weak, though I began perhaps to see a flicker of strength within.

Still, the fact of my weakness plagued me. For another three years, life would be full of questioning, self-loathing, and terrible displays of my weakness: I felt too much. Every face was either one more stimulus for an already-overwhelmed mind or one more reason to cringe into a corner. Every sound, every inflection of the voice, every touch, every speck of light–I was paralyzed at times. One moment I would be sympathizing with a loved one, the next nearly gagging on my own breath from the weight of the emotional stress. And all I could think was how much I sucked for not being normal.

The past few weeks, after learning that all my life I’ve been living without a choice in the matter, I’ve been trying to live as if I could make it go away, make it stop hurting. I know now that that’s impossible.

And somehow, that makes me happier.

There’s a strange sort of…peace, I suppose, in simply sitting back and saying, “I’m limited.” There’s a remarkable clarity in looking at all you wish you could do and saying, “So be it.” There’s an odd kind of consolation in simply stretching out your arms, looking to a crucifix, and saying, “My turn.”

I’m not despairing, I’m not despondent, just…a different kind of hopeful. I’m not hoping for healing anymore. I’m just hoping for the strength to see this journey through, cross and all. I’m choosing to accept the hardships of this life with patience and look to the promise of an eternity without pain or tears. I’m not giving up on this life, I’m just trying to see it through a new lens, one that does not rejoice in suffering but accepts it anyway and tries to be joyful through the pain. I’m seeing outside myself, seeing the beauty that God has placed in the world, not as simply a nice touch to the reality He created but as a message of His love for us, a source of his comfort on this rocky road to Paradise.

I don’t see all rainbows and butterflies anymore, but I’m not limited to the showers and worms either. No, at last, praise God, I’m beginning to see reality as it was meant to be seen, and it’s because I finally know that I can’t see it all.

I don’t even know if any of what just spilled from my fingertips even came out coherently, but it doesn’t matter. I know that if it’s touching the paper, someone, somewhere, needs to hear this. To whoever it is, know this: you are dearly loved, your pains are not punishment but profound signs of the love of a Father too dearly fond of us to let us live in mediocrity. He has shown us what it means to suffer in love, and the great rewards that are to come. It’s easier said than done, but speaking as one who is beginning to pass from darkness to light, it is well worth all you must surrender in love to He Who first loved you enough to die for you. May God bless you.

Serenity

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

This well-known “Serenity Prayer” was what a friend chose to have tattooed on her shoulder. My first reaction was something like, “You put what? On where? Using WHAT????” Needles and I have a long-running love-hate relationship: I hate them, and they love to see me squirm. Naturally, I was curious as to what would possess a person to voluntarily have one stuck in their shoulder multiple times.

Turns out, she had dealt with great grief and suffering in her life, and this prayer had come to be not only a comfort but a guide to how she dealt with life: receiving wisdom from God to analyze her situations, serenity to accept the things that had happened to her, and courage to change how she dealt with them and approached the rest of her life. This prayer was so much a part of her that she wanted it permanently etched into her very flesh. While I don’t normally advocate tattoos (I mean, c’mon, who needs a skull in flames sitting permanently on their body which probably looked much better without it? There’s gotta be a better way to spend that money…), I could not help but feel great admiration and respect for this young woman.

This prayer has come, in the past few days, to touch me in a very deep way. It turns out that I have an inherited trait called Sensory-Processing Sensitivity, making me an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person…real original name, huh?). It affects about 15-20% of the population in varying degrees, and basically it means that my nervous system is incredibly sensitive and easily overwhelmed. On the pro side, it’s easy for me to enter deeply into the spiritual life, to appreciate beauty, and to pick up on the feelings of others. On the con side, I’m easily overwhelmed by crowds and over-stimulating environments, I’m hypercritical of myself, and, because of old insecurities, social situations are an ordeal for me.

Having only recently discovered this, I’ve dealt for my whole life with this without being able to name it, and thus unable to accept it without any amount of serenity. I always had a fear of fireworks, couldn’t connect well with guys (loud, rowdy, obnoxious guys were the only guys I knew), and never got why I couldn’t get into sports and preferred instead singing in a choir. Insecurity after insecurity built itself up within me, and all I could say with any certainty was that I was different, and the only word I knew for “different without a name” was “freak”.

I’ve always heard that the most relieving thing for a person dealing with psychological problems is to be able to put a name to it, and now I can say it’s totally true. It’s a little like dealing with temptation: once you can name your demons, you can combat them. The difference is that we’re dealing here not with demons, but with our own broken and beautiful humanity. When once we can look at our brokenness as God does–with great love–we find new meaning and purpose. I am not a freak; I am a man with both a gift and a cross, just like everyone else; mine just happen to be rolled up under one heading.

My prayer is that I may accept with serenity who I am, change with courage the way it has affected and will affect me, and know with wisdom which is which; to simultaneously love myself and make myself the best I can be, not so much for my sake but for His.

And my prayer for any who struggle in any way, especially those who are fellow HSP’s, is that you, too, may receive wisdom, courage, and serenity from the loving hands that first created you.

Learning to Watch the Sunrise

Life is a beautiful thing, truly breathtaking. Yet even the most beautiful rose will be studded with thorns.

I’m a college student, so I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about suffering. I can claim, though, that I have felt pain, I have faced and still face trials and struggles. Through it all, for the longest time, it all swirled under an ebony cloud of confusion. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I was really facing, or why I had to face it. This past week was no exception. Until a drop of sunlight fell blindingly through the cloud to bring back the light of hope and joy stifled for so long in the darkness.

I and many friends consecrated ourselves last December to Jesus through Mary according to the formula set forth by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort. De Montfort wrote a book on what it truly means to devote oneself to the Blessed Virgin entitled True Devotion. Which, unfortunately, I have yet to read myself, but which a dear friend is currently reading. Now I don’t believe in coincidences–I believe that which is referred to as serendipity is really the hand of God at work–so it was not just a nice surprise but a spiritual gift when he shared the following insight from the book: Mary hands us the sweetest gifts of Heaven–crosses.

How can this make any sense? Crosses sweet? The mind reels at the paradox. Allow me, then, to share with you the path I took in discovering the beauty of this truth.

Fellow pilgrims, Christ Himself said, “[H]e who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Harsh? Considering He literally carried a giant cross on a scarred and bleeding back with thorns dug into His skull, through streets and up a rocky hill, alone but for those who lined the streets to mock Him, after which He died a slow painful death by suffocation and blood loss with nails through His hands and feet, all so we might have the chance to spend eternity in Heaven, I hardly think so.

And no, I do not digress. Consider: our God knows the full extent of our suffering. He was physically tortured, murdered, knew loneliness, was tempted when He was weakest in bodily strength in the desert, had a cousin who was killed, watched His mother suffer as He carried out His mission–in the words of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, “I fight not under a Captain Who has never sensed a wound, but One who stumbled to His Throne.” There is a poignant scene in The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis in which Diggory, beginning to cry, hangs his head in shame and pain before Aslan, who represents Christ. When he finally looks Aslan in the eye, he is shocked: Aslan, too, is crying.

Brethren, God does not rejoice in our suffering. What He does rejoice in is that which lies just beyond the suffering, if we will only trust Him. You see, God’s love for us is incomprehensible, because He is Love Himself; He is that love which says, “I freely sacrifice all I am and have for your greater good and ultimate happiness.” The thing is, He sees what will truly make us good and happy, while we can’t even see what will happen to us in the next moment. He is outside of time and space; we, for now, must work within it. So inevitably, God’s going to allow things or give us things that simply don’t make sense.

But there is peace, is there not, in knowing that God is not only walking with us but guiding us? If we are trusting in God and striving to grow closer to God, then the times in which we feel lost may well be the times in which He holds us closest to Himself.

A final point: in the Catholic Church, there is a teaching of ‘redemptive suffering’–the belief that in our suffering, if we truly offer it to God joyfully and unite it with Christ’s salvific sacrifice, we can participate in the work of salvation. By our offering of that which we struggle through, we can win souls for Heaven. Brethren, consider: we have been given the chance to participate in the divine work of redemption, the very work which transforms us and makes us adopted Children of God. Besides the gift of Himself for the work of salvation and in the Eucharist, please tell me what greater gift there could be.

I wish I could say it gets easier. News flash: life is hard. And the closer you get to Christ, the harder it will become, the deeper He will call us, the more struggling He will entrust to us. And yet, how much greater is the joy that will come with it, how much stronger is the fire of purpose leading us ever forward to Paradise. How great will eternity be for us, how beautiful is the promise made by He who will never break His promises.

And for those who simply need a little encouragement: God walks with you in your suffering. He weeps with you as you cry, feels your pain as you fall. To get back up again, to struggle forward again on this rocky road of reality with praise on your lips and faith in your heart, brings untold joy to the Heart Who gave you life. And just beyond the twilight is the promise of a rising sun that will drive away all doubt, eradicate all pain, dry away all tears.

Hope in the Lord, for the sun will rise.

(Credit due to my good friend Joe, for giving me the quote and, more importantly, the friendship that has brought me to this understanding)

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dum spiro, spero.

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