Jim was having a hard time lately. He was unhappy with how he was handling his life. A few months ago he had been filled with such a sense of hope. He was disciplining himself in all the areas where he knew he was weak, and all seemed to be steady. But that’s not how it’s been these past few weeks. He’s fallen into the same old sins once again, and all the structure and discipline he was demonstrating in his life seems to have vanished. He knows the stress in work has been increasing lately, and he has been bringing his worries about his job home to his family. He’s been edgy at home and particularly with his wife. And he never seems to have time for his kids anymore. To put it simply, Jim was feeling discouraged and even a little depressed.
How many of us feel this way? What do we do when these feelings seem to overwhelm us? In a book called “The Dark Night of the Soul” the author writes this: “If there were such a thing as a divine suggestion box, I’d suggest that God make things easier. Or if not easier, at least clearer.” I certainly agree with that thought. Yet it seems that in our darkest moments all we have is empty faith, unattached love, and hopeless hope. So, how do we bring a sense of meaning to the unavoidable sufferings of life? How do we get a “grip” on things?
If I may quote this author once again, I think there’s something in what she says that can shed some light.
“All we have in our own hands is our desire, which is at once our prayer, our yes, and our hope. For me, in the good times, hope is synonymous with trust. I move into the next moment with confidence and an expectation of goodness. In the hard times, hope takes on an increasing feeling of risk. I hope for the best, but the next moments feel uncertain, even scary. And the worst of times, the hope and desire may be reduced to a bare ember, so faint as to be almost undetectable. But it is always there, and sooner or later we are drawn to it.
So, what about this ember? Well, I think it is God and who the Lord is for us in our life. With all the uncertainty that lies within us and around us, we learn that the burning ember will never grow cold. Our confidence may be shaken, but will never be wiped out.
So, persevere in prayer, like the poor old woman who kept nagging that judge in Jesus’ story we hear today (this evening). For this person, her nagging is hoping. She is confident that eventually something will happen. She cries out to God day and night confident in God’s love in spite of appearances
So be willing to live with the risk and the scary feeling that comes over us when we feel threatened or unsafe. Even if the “flame” of confidence gets reduced to a flickering ember, remember that ember will never grow cold. God will never abandon you. Perseverance in prayer will eventually fan that ember into a warm flame of renewed confidence in the God who never abandons you.
Let me leave you with what St Teresa of Avila says about all this:
Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. The one who possess God lacks nothing. God alone is enough.