Bill was tired of confessing the same sins each time he went to confession. It seemed to him that going to confession was a waste of time. Nothing seemed to change in his life as a result of receiving this Sacrament.
And the last time he was there he said as much to the priest. And the priest kind of smiled at him and said, “You never know for sure what God’s up to. No one ever said that when you leave the confessional you will now be perfect from this day forth. If anything, your confession should remind you of how much you are dependent on God’s grace and mercy. We are not being asked to solve our problems on our own. We’re supposed to ask for help! So, don’t strive so much for perfection, strive to receive the grace to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus. And even this you can’t just make happen on your own, you have to be given the grace. But God surely wants to give grace to those who are willing to receive it.”
In the Letter to the Hebrews we hear these words: “Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him…” And further down: “Endure your trials as discipline… At the time all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”
Sometimes, the frustration of not seeing the results we want to see can become discouraging for us—-especially when we are struggling with our weaknesses.
Here’s a thought that can really help: God acts in the peace of one’s soul. It is not by our own efforts that we succeed in liberating ourselves from sin; it is only the grace of God which attains this end. Rather than troubling ourselves, it is more “productive” to regain our peace and let God act.
One of the things that we should be mindful of is that the discouragement that we feel regarding our failures and our faults is rarely pure. It is not just the simple pain of having offended God. It is in some part mixed with pride. It’s not so much that God is offended but because the ideal image of ourselves has been shaken up. When we feel this way, it is usually a sign that we are putting our trust in ourselves and relying on our own strength and not relying on God.
Remember what the priest said to Bill: you don’t know what God is up to. That’s true for all of us. So we must not view our faults too tragically because God is able to draw good from them.
St. Augustine would often quote these words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Everything works together for the good of those who love God. But then Augustine would add: Even sins.
It is from looking at our weaknesses from this perspective that we experience the “peaceful fruit” St. Paul writes of in the Letter to the Hebrews. This is how crooked ways are made straight, and our weak limbs are strengthened.
So Jesus is saying to you, “Do not waste your time and energy wishing for a different set of circumstances, instead, trust Me enough to yield to My design and purposes.”