Can we find God in dark times?

By July 5, 2018Articles
Can we find God in dark times?

God knows what we don’t; God sees what we can’t; and God is always faithful.

Which phrase is most likely to make you wince?

  1. “Don’t worry—I just know everything is going to be okay!”
  2. “Everything happens for a reason!”
  3. Rousing choruses of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands!” sung by well-fed people who are not in danger.

We live in a world of constant change—some changes are foreseen, others not; some changes are welcome, others not; some seem to be to our benefit, others not. How do we start each day without wishful thinking or paralyzing dread?

Recently, I had dinner with a group of elderly priests, and, not surprisingly, they talked about their health. One said his nurse asks him daily, “How are you on a scale of one to 10?” He quipped, “I tell her, ‘minus 10!’” We all laughed.

The oldest present said, “I use a different scale. I know that God loves me more than I love him. That’s the foundation for everything. Otherwise, I couldn’t go on.”

I knew that priest, in his 90s, suffers much. His pains are many and his disabilities evident. Yet he speaks with a confidence that is graced rather than glib. What can we learn from him?

There are “seasons” when God’s goodness is brightly apparent, and other seasons when it appears that God has forgotten us. Let’s reflect on both.

When has the goodness of God been most brightly clear to you? Was it on your wedding day? Or at the birth of your child? Was the sovereignty of God most evident to you at the conversion of a loved one? When did you most clearly hear God call you by name? Was it at your First Communion? At your Confirmation? How often do you recall such revelations of God’s glory? How much time do you take to savor those revelations? There is so much need, so much tragedy, and, also, always, so many unacknowledged or unnoticed blessings.

Our ability to recognize, remember, and receive God’s gracious presence is essential, if we’re to survive and remain faithful while in dark times and desert places. We’re all subject to the darkness and the desert and the alien voices that dwell therein, for we live in a fallen world. Are we prepared to recognize, receive, and remember God’s fidelity during the times and places and seasons of desolation? We must answer that question well, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, and as disciples.

As individuals: When your doctor says “cancer”; when your spouse says “divorce”; when your teenager says “pregnant”; when your boss says “fired”—in that moment, will we as individuals then recognize, receive, and remember that Christ is victorious, the Holy Spirit anoints us, and our Heavenly Father is sovereign?

As communities: When we hear “revenue shortfall”; when we hear “budget cuts”; when we hear “doing more with less”—in that moment, will we as a community then be able to recognize, receive, and remember that Christ is victorious, the Holy Spirit anoints us, and our Heavenly Father is sovereign?

As a nation: When inflation erodes the value of the dollar and bloats the price of food; when tempers are short and lines are long at the gas pump—in that moment, will we as a nation then recognize, receive, and remember that Christ is victorious, the Holy Spirit anoints us, and our Heavenly Father is sovereign?

As disciples: When a diocese says “bankrupt”; when a pastor says “goodbye”—in that moment, will we as disciples then recognize, receive, and remember that Christ is victorious, the Holy Spirit anoints us, and our Heavenly Father is sovereign?

Even in the best of times, we live in a fallen world, so we must prepare for when people and events will shake our faith. And who is willing to say that we’re now living in or heading toward the best of times?

Satan would have us brood over the past (either our grievances or our sins) or fret over the future (anticipating loss and disappointment). Either way, we’re distracted from God and our daily duties. The wisdom of the saints, and the witness of the heroes of faith I’ve met, tell us we can remain in grace if we stop and say: “In this moment, I am to glorify God.” If we make that prayer and attitude a habit, we will not turn to idols or distractions. With our head, heart and hands busy attending to God’s glory right now, we’re best disposed to receive grace and cooperate with divine providence. In trying times, the answer isn’t easy words but stubborn habits of prayer and diligent work. God knows what we don’t; God sees what we can’t; and God is always faithful.

When I write next, I will speak of managing our thoughts. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.

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