Are You Asking God, “Why?” or “Why Me?”

man-857502__340For some time, I’ve been watching a person I love struggle with unanswered prayer that involves both financial and emotional hardships. I’ve tried to offer encouragement and advice, but there is absolutely no evidence that I’ve helped in any way whatsoever. Perhaps I am too close to the situation to discern the nuances involved. Or more likely, I offered too much advice too readily. When those we love have problems, we ‘Helpful Henrys’ should back off and just pray.

But his trials have brought to my mind the times in my own life when I was in the same boat. And I can testify with great certainty that the whole experience is incredibly painful. It seems to go on forever – until you are so discouraged, you can no longer even daydream about what life will be like after the prayer is answered. Finally, the solution sneaks in like Carl Sandburg’s fog “on little cat feet” and you can almost miss it.

There are a few things I’ve learned the hard way by living through the misery of various difficulties that I want to share in case someone else should ever benefit from my experiences.

  1. Keep your thoughts, words, and prayers as positive as you possibly can. Yes, I know your primary desire is to go to bed and sleep it off. You just want someone to “Wake you up when it’s over.” But thus avoiding reality only makes it worse, as I have learned the hard way.

As difficult as it might be, just get out of bed every morning. Just do it! I can remember many times whining to God, because no one else would listen to me anymore, that I was sick and tired of being plucky.

The complicated truth is that wallowing in pain only prolongs it. So gird up your loins and be positively, confidently, and absolutely plucky. In reality, there is no other rational choice, no matter what your emotions tell you.

  1. Be grateful! So you’re in dire need of X (a.k.a. job, phone call, car, money, etc.) And you’re not being indulgent or extravagant in your request. It’s just something you do really need, but don’t have. What on earth can you be grateful for?

  • You woke up on the right side of the grass

  • The bus came on time today

  • Your supervisor actually smiled for a change

  • You noticed a daffodil blooming

  • You got to hear a fabulous recording of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

  • There’s enough shampoo in the bottle to last until payday if you’re careful

  • It didn’t start raining until after you got inside

Make gratitude a habit by keeping a gratitude journal every single day, especially if you’re not the journal type. Remember, you’re in a desperate situation and you must take your medicine whether you relish it or not. It’s the effect of the medicine you’re after, not the joy of the journal itself. Each entry is concrete proof that God really does love you and is concerned with all the little details of your life.  Also read a previous entry on this blog, “If this virtue were a drug . . .” written on August 10, 2016 for more reasons to be grateful.

  1. Do at least one thing every single day to make you feel proud of yourself, especially if it’s avoiding or correcting a bad habit. Ninety-nine percent of the people I know go through life fighting one or more bad habits. So, pretend it’s Lent and work on your habit(s). After all, God has arranged this special, personal “Lenten” season just to help you; so take advantage of His School for Disciples. Every day that you avoid that particular habit or actually do that good thing you ought to do, you will like yourself better. And you’re the one you most need to impress other than the good Lord Himself. On top of that, other people will like you even better when you learn to love yourself.

  1. As a corollary to previous suggestions, begin to seek God’s will for your life with great seriousness. We all have blind spots about our own faults, which is why they’re called blind spots. That’s the main reason we hate to receive advice – because we’re absolutely positive that it doesn’t quite apply to us. However, it is entirely possible that God may be trying to get our attention about something we’re carefully keeping out of our consciousness at the moment. That something we’re avoiding might be the key to our future success and happiness. Be willing, even eager, to change your actions and/or attitudes as needed.

Get down on your knees, fast, pray, and beg God to tell you exactly what you need to change in your life in order to fit in with His plans for you. Then obey whatever He says. If you’re not sure after prayer and fasting, ask a spiritual director, your priest, or some wise person you trust to help you discern the truth.

Neither good times nor bad times last forever and neither do the trials that test our faith. Occasionally, the cavalry will ride into the situation, guns blazing, and get rid of the bad guys. Occasionally, the answer is so dramatic, we tell the story of resolving our predicament to anyone who will listen for weeks, months, or years afterward. Most often, for me, the situation changes as imperceptibly as the earth rotates around sun. At some point, I discover I don’t really need or, perhaps, even want whatever I had asked for. Instead I am in another place altogether.

God loves me more than I love myself.  He wants only the best for me. So I can rest in His care and trust Him to provide answers.  Just as loving parents insist their children learn to eat vegetables and meat, not just candy bars, so God insists that even if life becomes uncomfortable, we mature emotionally and spiritually through a type of boot camp. And He personally provides a precise program that enlarges  and enriches us to whatever extent that we cooperate with Him. Some of us give up and fall away early, some of us complete a type of basic boot camp, some go on to graduate the officers’ training program, and some, the saints, finish the equivalent of Seal training.

Reporting for duty, Sir!

 

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