Saying we have faith in God when life is going smooth is easy. When serious troubles are not a threat, confidence in God isn’t hard. The test is to check our faith when the waves of adversity are crashing against us.
From my own experience, as a wife of 15 years and mother of eight children living on one income, life has been a challenge in multiple ways. With the financial state of our national economy over the last eight plus years, we’ve had scary times. We’ve gone through a major job loss before and now, well, here we are again.
I am tempted to be worried, to despair even. The challenge my husband faces in finding a job that will support our large family close to the village we recently bought a home in, will be very hard. I could list many negatives against us, but I’m not going to. Honestly, the greatest temptation I have is to ask why I’m not worrying and freaking out.
I have confidence in God now because He has always helped us through hard times. I can look back and see how my worrying, anger, questioning and living without peace never helped a situation; it only made life for me and my family worse. Every time we have faced hardships or uncertainty, whether it be losing a job, finding a place to live, hoping for a home of our own, health problems, hard pregnancies, relationship issues, through everything that we all go through in life, God has been there, giving his grace and help. Often right at the last minute, but always just in time.
It also helps that this job loss happened at the end of Pascha (Easter) season. Having just witnessed the Resurrection of Christ after journeying through the terrible events of Holy Week, I cannot help but have joy, hope, and confidence that Christ has destroyed death and all will be well.
Of course I have temptations to anger, worry and despair. When I do, I ask myself, “‘When has God let you down before?’ ‘When have any of us gone hungry?'” I think of the birds and the lilies of the field, (Mt 6:25-34) and the ten heads of hair in my family, and how our Father in heaven knows just how many hairs there are on each (Mt 10:29-31). I know He will not abandon us or cease caring for us.
This doesn’t mean I believe in a health and wealth gospel. When reflecting on Jesus’s life and His mother’s, one can never imagine Jesus came to make us a rich church! I recently read Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness. She made me ponder on Christ being poor, about Holy Poverty. Dorothy Day said, “When we meditate on our Lord’s life we are meditating on our own. God is to be found in what appears to be the little and the unimportant. Don’t look back 1900 years. Look around us today.” Any trials that I must endure are not done alone, but with Jesus Christ who has already born all suffering.
I’m sure it was providence that I read Dorothy Day just before my husband was laid off. Oh how funny God can be! Dorothy made me question the standards that I have, what I think is success, what I long for and trust in. Many times in my life, my measurements have been closer to the world’s standards then to our Lord’s who said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:19-21).
As Christians we cannot say we believe this life is passing quickly and is only a preparation for eternity and then live like this world is all we have. Or say we believe God is a loving Father who will provide for our needs and then worry when life is not going as we want. We cannot live in the moment with God and also in the future; in a state of worrisome doubt. We cannot pray for God’s will to be done and then, when our will isn’t done, freak out!
I pray for God’s will in my life and in my family’s life. I entrust my children to God and know they are His children before they are my husband’s; before they are mine. I ask Him to lead us according to His will. Now I am given the opportunity to mean what I pray, to have childlike confidence in my Father, to let Him lead us according to His will.
Learning to have confidence and peaceful surrender to God’s care and will hasn’t come easily and certainly I have moments of struggle but no longer days or weeks of despair, which I have felt in the past. I have learned that faith and hope are gifts of grace from God, gifts that begin to be opened to us with the act of our will. It’s all about synergy with God. We give our little mustard seed or widow’s mite of will and in turn He gives us the grace we need. Then we can say with St. Paul, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
The Christian life isn’t easy. Jesus told us, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it (Mt 10:38-39).” I know these trials are part of the daily cross we must bear, and that means it is what is best for us and will lead to eternal life. I look back on life and see moments and trials that seemed devastating and hopeless as great times of growth, healing, and resurrection. Already I see God answering recent prayers (like the one for more faith)! I know this doesn’t mean everything will turn out like I hope (even Jesus didn’t want to endure crucifixion and the sorrow the Theotokos went through seeing her son tortured and killed was soul piercing (Lk 2:35). Yet, we know what seemed like Satan’s great triumph, what appeared to be a meaningless end to a short innocent life, was the greatest hour and victory, the last darkness before the true light would save us all. My favorite song during Pascha is the one to the Theotokos that says:
The angel exclaimed to her, full of grace: “Rejoice, 0 Pure Virgin; again I say, rejoice! Your Son is risen from the grave on the third day and has raised the dead. Let all nations rejoice!
Shine in splendor, O new Jerusalem! For the glory of the Lord is risen upon you, O Sion; sing with joy and rejoice! And you, pure Mother of God, rejoice in the resurrection of your Son.
From these trials new life will come, one way or another. I have confidence that all will be well in Gods time and according to His will. I know Jesus Christ has made all things new and resurrection will follow each and every cross all the way to eternity.
When struggling with your own crosses and difficult times, I encourage you to pray for faith and hope and give God your will and see what He will do. When prayer doesn’t come, because you’re drowning in fears and cannot find the words, cry out and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray and to pray within you. “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:25-27).