Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fear of the Worst

     I am amazed at how many times painful situations can change our lives for the best. I believe it is important to “rejoice always” as the Bible says (Philippians 4:4) and always be grateful to God no matter what. To rejoice means to celebrate, to be glad, to be very pleased.

As we go through life, we sometimes face difficult situations, sad moments and challenging times moments in which what we experience is not what we would have chosen or what we had planned. For example, we can receive bad news, have to say goodbye to a friend or loved one, go through a separation, a divorce or be fired from a job. When these things happen, we find it hard to rejoice, and we might feel it is hard to be grateful to God. At these times, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of being always grateful and ask God to give us the grace to rejoice. As it says in Philippians, we need to “rejoice always”! Not sometimes. Not only when things happen as we wish. Not only when we are happy and we think the situation is fair. Not only when things go our way. No, it says “always.”

It also says “Have no anxiety at all.” (Philippians 4:6) This leaves room for zero anxiety, zero distress, zero sorrow, zero worry and zero fear. But we are humans, biological as well as spiritual creatures. Sometimes our heart aches, our emotions get the best of us, our brain does not understand why things have to change or why things have to be so hard. It is sometimes hard to rejoice or feel grateful. It is human to feel sad. So what are we to do? How can we rejoice always?

            In the Bible, we are advised to do three things: Be grateful, pray and think about the good!

Be grateful. The Bible says we should be “giving thanks always and for everything.” (Ephesians 5:20) Let’s be grateful to God every day, all the time, no matter what, especially when we are not in the mood or when we are weighed down with burdens. Let’s never say, “I can’t be grateful for this or for that.” We can feel grateful because in a bad situation we had the opportunity to learn a lesson or because within a bad situation things could always have been worse. In every situation, we can find something to be grateful for. For example, when someone we love leaves us, we can be grateful that we had the blessing of meeting that person and having had that person in our lives.

To feel grateful, we need to remember two things. First, we need to remember as St.  Francis said that “nothing is ours! Great wisdom will come to us as we meditate upon this thought until we become firmly convinced of it we own nothing. Everything has been entrusted to us for a limited time only.” The chance to share our love with others is a gift from God. Sometimes we get possessive and forget that nothing is ours and everything is God’s. If we have anything even for a limited time, it is thanks to His greatness, kindness and loving heart. It is a gift.

            We are blessed to have all the things we treasure in our lives, all our friends, our family, our children, our opportunities, our experiences, our health, our youth, our intelligence and our skills. But when the time comes to say goodbye, when time is up, we need to let go. We need to keep the good memories, learn whatever lesson the experience left behind, grieve what needs to be grieved and then find the courage to keep on going.

            When God calls for a change in our life and/or in the life of a friend or loved one, we need to be ready to lovingly say: “Yes!” Sometimes we can be like spoiled children, whose parents have taken them to Disneyland and who have a tantrum when the vacation is over and it is time to go home. Instead of saying thank you for all they have enjoyed there and appreciating how good and loving their parents were, these children have a tantrum because they want to stay longer. They disregard the precious gift their parents have given them, and they focus instead on what they can no longer have. Let’s not be like spoiled children. Let’s be loving, obedient children of our heavenly Father.

            The second thing we need to remember in order to feel grateful in every situation is to be humble. Humble means: meek, docile, calm, submissive, obedient, soft and gentle. It is the opposite of being proud and having a big ego. It is the opposite of “I want it my way,” “I don’t want it this way” and “I don’t like it that way.” We can be excited and full of joy at what lies ahead, but we must also be detached from everything and be ready to give it up if necessary. Let’s be meek and humble of heart, like Jesus (Matthew 11:29), so that we can let go when God calls us to let go.

Pray. In order to rejoice always, the second thing the Bible advises us to do is to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In Philippians 4:6, we are called to pray “with thanksgiving.” If we are upset and ungrateful and complaining, then we are not praying with thanksgiving! Once we have a life of prayer, then we can be sure that “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Even if we do not understand why, even if the situation is hard to accept, we must pray and try to rejoice, and then God’s peace will guard our hearts.

Think about good things. The Bible says: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) We can manage our brain well and keep our emotions in check, but we need to want to do it, and we need to put effort into it. We must make a conscious choice to focus on all the good we have. We choose where we set your eyes, either on all that is good in our life or on all that is bad. If someone says, “There is nothing good I can think of right now,” we should remember that there is always God’s love to feel happy about. We should never say, “I cannot thank God for this” or “I have nothing to be grateful for.” Instead, as Mother Teresa advised, “we should make a commitment to see every experience, whether good or bad, happy or sad, as a magnificent opportunity to do something beautiful for God.” In the toughest moments we encounter, we give glory to God if we gather the strength to smile and trust and thank, even if that is all we can do.

Wisdom to contemplate:

“And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-15)

“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)