Monday, April 25, 2011

In Times of Trouble

I was pushed hard so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.      --  Ps. 118:13

How does the Lord help me?  To put it simply, with a word.

When I am struggling, angry, worried, or wondering what direction I should take, I have learned to ask for help in the quietness of my soul.  I have learned to lay it all before the Lord, examining as many angles of the problem as I can -- both my good intentions and my not so good intentions.  Then, I have learned to leave it in God's hands.  I move on, trusting in the Lord.  And, almost as soon as I have left the problem behind me, I hear, or see, the words that are meant for me.  These can be from a book (the Bible, or some other book), from a song, from another person, or from nowhere in particular.  The words I need never fail to come.

"Perfect hope is achieved on the brink of despair when, instead of falling over the edge, we find ourselves walking on air."  (Merton, No Man is An Island, pg. 206)

I must, however, reach the point where I know that only God can help me.  (This comes more easily with practice.) 

"When a man suffers, he is most alone," Merton writes.  (No Man is An Island, pg. 81).  I think there must come a point when we all realize this alone-ness.  No one really understands us.  No one's advice seems to help, not our family, not our teachers, not our friends, not even our pastor or therapist.  Though they may love and care for us, and want to help us, if they do not turn to God for help, they too may not be able to tell us what we need to hear.

Once you reach the point where you know that you, or anyone else you know, cannot solve your problem, you have a choice.  You can either give up the hope that there will ever be an end to your struggle, or your can place your hope in God.

Today's Old Testament reading, from Exodus (14:10-16), illustrates this well.  The Israelites approaching the Red Sea, look back and see the Egyptians chasing them in order to kill them.  They complain to Moses, "Why did you bring us into the wilderness to die?  Weren't there enough graves in Egypt?"  Moses tries to encourage them, but he gives them bad advice.  He tells them, "Stand firm... keep still."  But, then the word of the Lord comes to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to go forward.  You, Moses, lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand...."  Luckily, Moses listens to God, and the Israelites listen to God, and they are delivered from death.

I recall some of the history of God's Word.  From Genesis:  "God said... and there was...."  From the Gospel of John:  "In the beginning was the word...." and,  "Jesus is the word made flesh."  From the lives of the saints: St. Augustine struggling to solve the dilemma of life, hearing a child's voice say, "Take the book, and read," he opens the Bible, and the first words he reads, speak to him so directly that he can not doubt that God is speaking to him, and he listens; St. Anthony of the Desert, running into church late, hears "If you would be perfect, sell all you possess and give to the poor," and he listens; Mother Teresa hearing God telling her to help the poorest of the poor while riding on a train, and she listens.  There are countless examples in the lives of other people that attest to the power of God's word.  There are certainly countless examples in my life.

Dear God, please keep me always turned to you with open ears and open eyes, trusting in your mercy and steadfast love.  Love always, Pam

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