Do you struggle to find a way to love God? What does “love God” really mean? Does God “need” your love? And, if God needs your love, what kind of love can you offer? Does He need your compassion or your consolation?
My journey and daily prayers find me trying to show God that I love Him. The commandment says to “Love your God” and I know there are many ways we’re supposed to show our love for God. The truth is that, for me, I find myself in the Adoration chapel or in silent prayer here at home or at the quiet times of Mass and I really don’t know what I’m doing. I try to find a way to express my love in my thoughts and words, but it all feels like I’m failing miserably.
Somehow I’m just not connecting with God.
My conception of what God is like leaves me also wondering why in the world He would need my love. After all, He is all powerful, all knowing and essentially “bullet proof” because nothing or no one can destroy or lessen Him. Besides, He is just a spiritual being of some sort that I can’t relate to. Not as if He’s someone like me who feels an emotional need for love.
I was reading a book last night called Seeds of Hope, which is a reader book for Henri Nouwen, with small articles and pieces from many of his writings. One short little quote from an article about submitting to the will of God said this:
When I can only relate to God in terms of submission, I am much more distant from God than when I feel free to question divine decrees. Most remarkable, therefore, is that this intimacy with God leads to a feeling that has never been part of my thinking but might be very important: Compassion for God.
This really struck me. I thought about it for a few minutes of meditation and wondered if maybe I could relate to God more if I realized that He needs my compassion, my love. That thought percolated last night and came to me again this morning as I awoke. I pulled out the book again and read the passage. I prayed about it briefly and wondered what it might mean for me. .
I will say that there is a lot going on with my spiritual and personal journey, so I was searching this morning for a new thought in prayer. I just finished a new book by a friend, Jeannie Ewing, called From Grief to Grace. It’s a wonderful book and I’d recommend it for any of you looking for insight into suffering, grief and how to deal with all of it in your spiritual life.
I remembered that Jeannie has some devotions in an appendix to her book. I hadn’t read them but I looked at the meditation on the First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden. Her prayer to Jesus said this: “I’ve never seen you so distraught, yet Your battle is clearly distressing You to the point of trembling and sweating blood. What can I do? I want to remain with You, but I am afraid—afraid that You might beckon me to join You, and I’m not ready for that yet….I long to comfort You, although I know that no consolation will suffice at this hour.”
There it was again! This thought about comfort and consolation for God!
A few thoughts came to me. First, that God is a person. Actually, there are three persons in our one God and Jesus, as God, was able to feel unbelievable sadness and emotion to the point that He sweated blood.
We think of a person in terms of a human being, but a “person” is much more than that. A person is like God, a spiritual being and more than just a body with a mind. Our soul is the essence of our person. God is a person, just like us and He can feel sadness and grief. He feels pain despite all the power and might.
Much of the spiritual writing about suffering and grief focuses on the redemptive aspect of suffering, of uniting your pain with Jesus’ suffering and taking up your Cross, which Jesus asks us to do. As Jeannie’s meditation says, we really don’t want to go there because that path can be so hard. But, willingness to join in suffering and take up your Cross can be a way to show compassion to Jesus.
Nouwen’s passage tells about a Jew who had stopped praying to God because of Auschwitz. But then he started again after a few years because he realized that God was all alone in His grief about Auschwitz. He “felt sorry for God”.
Does God have a reason to feel sorry? I think so. For me, I know He probably feels sorry about all my sins. He put me here to do His work and I’ve let Him down so many times. As my Father, He’s wondering if I will ever get it right or come back to Him the way He would want. All that He’s taught me and given to me that I’ve squandered in so many ways.
Then, I think of my own roles as a father, son, husband, brother, grandfather and uncle. Yes there is much to celebrate in each of these relationships and lives that I should touch. But, I can see the struggles in so many of their journeys. Sins, rejection of God and turning from our Faith…these all make God sad and they make me sad. I can join with God in His grief.
There are a few of my relatives who might be willing to discuss their faith, sin, God, truth, etc. But, most want nothing to do with any of it. There is no way I can force these discussions, my faith or God on most people.
Isn’t it exactly like that for God? He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. He’s there when we want to engage Him. He is always ready to welcome His prodigal sons and daughters.
But, He is always trying to fight the evil forces and our culture. Mostly He sees a battle that He’s losing. How much sadness must He feel not just for all of my sins, but for what is going on in this world? The persecutions of Christians, the challenge to the most basic aspects of life or marriage, relativism, materialism, the rejection of His Church and so many other false approaches to life.
With His faithful believers there is a bounty of other gifts He showers on us. He sends us people, books, programs, sacraments, liturgies, prayers, mercy, hope, love and the promise of eternal life with Him. These gifts are the tools for our lives, but also give us wisdom and understanding to see what God sees.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”… The second beatitude is where this brings me as I close.
Certainly, I believe that God, the person, mourns. He wants us to mourn with Him. That mourning gives Him comfort and eventually it will give us comfort.
That’s one of the ways we can love God. Yes, there are many other ways such as worship, following His teachings and acts of mercy.
But one form of prayer can be our joined compassion and suffering with Jesus.
Jesus was and is sad. He understands sadness. He knows we are sad. If we aren’t sad, truly there is something wrong because there is too much sin in our world to not be sad.
Most people don’t like to think about the fact that there have been and will be many lost souls. The final consequence of sin. The real reason for sadness.
God has always been sad because we’ve always let Him down. Yes, He has given us so much and He wants us to be grateful.
But, to love God, we also need to mourn with Him.
And, know that eventually we will be comforted with God when we are together in Heaven where all sadness will cease.
Finally, God’s love will win.