No! I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak. Job 7:11
Job had a lot to feel bitter about: loss of loved ones, property, and physical health. He was criticized by his wife and misunderstood by his friends. Who could blame him for feeling angry? We’ve all felt like that—and sometimes with a lot less provocation.
Job is famous for having patience, but he was no hypocrite. He was honest about his feelings. It’s good for us to be honest about our feelings, too. Swallowing our anger or pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t healthy. Anger turned in on ourselves can lead to physical symptoms or other problems. It isn’t honest, either.
We need to express our anger, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to lash out or hurt anyone. So what do we do? We might take a lesson from Job. He poured out his anger to God. Like the psalmists, Job wasn’t afraid to bare his soul to God. We can do the same. God is truth. If we can’t tell the truth about what we’re feeling to God, who can we be honest with?
Once we’ve vented safely with the One who can handle it, we’re in less danger of being pushed around by our feelings or acting on them in a harmful way. But after we’ve had our say, it’s time to listen, just as Job listened to God. When our lines of communication are no longer clogged with negative static, we can receive direction. We can turn our anger over to God and act as He directs us.
Prayer: Lord, I’m angry. Show me what to do.
Reflection for sharing: What are you holding back from sharing with God?
…James and John, the sons of Zebedee…were in their boat getting their nets ready. As soon as Jesus saw them, he called them; they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and went with Jesus. Mark 1: 19b-20
I wonder how Zebedee felt. I’d have been jealous, resentful, and concerned for my children’s well-being—at least initially. Did Zebedee understand his sons’ need to follow Jesus? How long did it take him to adjust to the impact their response had on his own life?
What happens when someone close to us makes choices—even good choices—that are out of our comfort zone? God’s plans for our loved ones sometimes seem to take them away from us. Can we feel all our feelings without getting stuck in them? Can we put ourselves and our loved ones in God’s hands?
Prayer: Lord, grant us the grace to accept Your plans for us and our loved ones.
Reflection for sharing: What helps you entrust your loved ones to God’s loving care?
Do whatever he tells you. John 2:5b
When the wine had run out during the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus’ mother told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Servants are used to following instructions. Us? Not so much.
Our culture fiercely prizes independence and that’s a good thing…to an extent. But there are plenty of times “my way” just doesn’t work. The truth is, I simply don’t have all the answers. Of course I do my best to deal with life’s difficulties using the brains God gave me. Even so, bombarding problems with my own efforts sometimes leaves me as dry as the wineskins at that wedding in Cana. When I come up empty, I become open to what God has in mind for a situation. I can honestly say that there isn’t a single situation I’ve been up against that I haven’t survived, although there have been many that haven’t gone the way I wanted them to.
When my husband Ray proposed, he was living in another state. My determination not to relocate left us deadlocked. Ray gently challenged me to pray for God’s will. I agreed, convinced I’d be told to stay put. To my surprise, the answer God sent to my heart was like a bud opening from tight resistance to open-mindedness and then to willingness. My shift in attitude surprised me. I saw that much of my reluctance was fear-based, and began to see the move as an opportunity. Although we moved back to my home state less than two years later, the experience of yielding my will and trusting the unknown was well worth the adventure. The people I met were great. Moreover, the new hometown we ultimately ended up living in has been the birthplace of my writing career. I couldn’t have known that back when I stubbornly refused to yield, but God did. Looking back I can see it was all part of His plan. I am so much better off when I rely on God’s wisdom and follow His directions rather than calling my own shots. How about you?
Prayer: Lord, help me listen for your instructions and follow.
Reflection: What is God asking you to do today?
“But avoid stupid arguments, long lists of ancestors, quarrels, and fights about the Law. They are useless and worthless.” Titus 3:9
St. Paul advised Titus, a fellow missionary, to avoid stupid arguments. Spreading the gospel among non-believers must have given Titus plenty of opportunities to get drawn into controversy—all the more because he was a Gentile. Although he wasn’t physically circumcised, it’s clear Titus’ heart was circumcised. Titus was willing to witness to his faith and endure the challenges of making his faith known publicly for the sake of sharing the Good News with others.
How can we handle controversy? We can speak our truth quietly but firmly. We can choose how we want to respond to antagonizing comments. Our demeanor can be more effective than brilliant words in convincing others of God’s love. We can share what we believe knowing that the truth doesn’t change whether or not people believe it. We can also respect God’s gift of free will to those we share with.
Prayer: Lord, may I respect those who disagree with me while also respecting myself.
Reflection for sharing: How can asking God to speak through me help me avoid the pitfall of useless arguments?
What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight… Matthew 10:27a
Having the courage to speak the truth in public can be challenging. An even bigger challenge might be hearing what God is trying to tell us in the darkness to begin with. Christ isn’t asking us to do the impossible, to see in the darkness. He’s inviting us to listen to what he has to say in the darkness. Listening comes before sharing. When we can’t see, we rely more on our sense of hearing. Maybe darkness is a blessing, a way to help us listen.
I’ve found it to be true in my own experience. The darkest times in my life have been the times I’ve listened most intently for God’s guidance. When pain, sorrow, and despair have darkened my life I cried out to God and listened for His answer–even when I felt like He wasn’t there. I had nowhere else to turn. The consolation and the strength to endure has always been provided–maybe through a phone call from a friend, or a chance phrase I happened to read or hear in a song. Once, after days sunk in desolation, I took a walk. A stone near the path caught my attention. It was the size, shape, and color of a heel of Italian bread. I hefted the stone in my hand. It felt solid and good and real. It was as if God reached through my darkness, letting me know that He was solid and good and real, too. Day followed day. Eventually the light came back to my life. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last that I was brought through my gloom by God’s grace, not my own vision.
What I heard in the darkness was that God is good, he is solid, and he is there, whether we see him or not. I have something to share with others surrounded by darkness because I’ve been in the darkness myself. Putting one foot in front of the other, we can walk through the bleakest times by faith, not by sight. If we listen with our hearts, we will hear what God is saying to us, and all will be well.
Prayer: Light of the world, open my heart to listen for you in my darkness.
Reflection: When has God spoken to you in the darkness?
“The Father, who remains in me, does his own work.” John 14:10b
When we surrender our self-will, God can work through us. We’re effective when we cooperate with God, do the legwork, and become God’s hands and feet. It’s when we try to be the head that we get into trouble. It’s tempting to “help” God when things don’t go the way we think they should, but it usually doesn’t work out well.
God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many descendents, but as Abraham got older and older with no heir, he and his wife decided to help God. He fathered a child, Ishmael, through Sarah’s slave girl. That wasn’t the heir God had in mind. Ishmael and the promised heir Isaac and their descendants have been at odds ever since.
After Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, the eleven remaining apostles decided that they needed a replacement. By drawing lots, they chose Matthias. Ever heard of Matthias? However, a Pharisee named Saul had an astonishing conversion after an encounter with God on the road to Damascus. Saul–also called Paul–ended up becoming the apostle to the Gentiles and writing much of the New Testament. It would seem that God didn’t need help in picking a successor for Judas.
What about us? Ever tried to help run your little corner of the universe? Maybe we’ve tried some or all of these ways:
- Trying to guide friends, family, or other adults by giving them unasked for advice on what we think they should do
- Trying to help God judge the world by mentally passing judgment on others
- Trying to force or manipulate situations to turn out our way, to prevent the chaos we think will ensue otherwise
- Thinking we’re the only ones who can help others, even when we’re running on empty
- Giving God instructions in our prayers rather than ask for His will
- Forging ahead with our own agendas without stopping to consider what God might want.
The days I rush to get done all I think I need to do are often the days that get me nowhere. I am much more relaxed, sane, and able to negotiate my days when I don’t try and take over God’s work.
Prayer: Lord, accomplish your work through me.
Reflection: When have you tried to take over God’s work?
Priscilla is mentioned several times in Scripture–always with her husband, Aquila. Like Paul, they were Jewish tentmakers. After being expelled from Rome, they relocated to Corinth. Both cities were thriving business and cultural centers, subject to the moral excesses that are so often bread in prosperity. Nevertheless, Priscilla and Aquila maintained their marriage as a true partnership.
Together they worked, traveled, opened their home to believers, and equally shared the risks involved. They risked reputation, security, and life istelf in order to extend hospitality and stand with fellow believers. Despite their Jewish background, they reached out to Gentile believers as well. After being uprooted yet again from Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila settled in Epheseus, remaining there while Paul moved on. In Pauls absense, they had the insight and courage to correct and instruct Apollos, another enthusiastic speaker of “the Way.” I love their humility in going about it. They did not challenge Apollos publicly, but welcomed him into their home. In that privacy, they supplied him with the information he lacked, without judgement or cricticsm. Apollos’ heart was in the right place, and he was able to make use of their constructive criticism as he followed his call to move on and preach.
Scripture doesn’t tell us if Priscilla nad her husband had children. If they were childless, I wond’er how Priscilla felt about it. How did she feel about relocating, not once, but twice? A true helpmate for her husband, Priscilla apparently nurtured her marraige and was nurtured by it. She did not seem driven to act independently, nor was she so absorbed in love for her husband that there was little room left for outsiders.
Many of us face the challenges Prsicilla did. Married or not, we may need to relocate, due to employment or circumstances beyond our control. We might even resent being forced to give up a familiar or comfortable lifestyle. Maybe we mourn a childless or loveless marriage or state in life. We might struggle with surrendering our will at times for the sake of our loved ones. It’s okay to feel whatever we do feel about our circumstances. After all, God created us to have feelings. We can bring our feelings safely to God and allow him to lead us through them. God can teach our hearts to balance lvoing others with loving ourselves. Learning this balance is a process. We are not responsible for our feelings, but for our choices.
In your faith journey, what have you had to leave behind? What did you gain? What helped you cope with your feelings about the change?
Taken from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes.”
For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him. We will each receive what we deserve, according to everything we have done, good or bad, in our bodily life. 2 Corinthians 5: 10
Did St. Paul really write this in his letter to the Corinthians? Wasn’t he always saying:
That we’re saved by faith, not by works? (Ephesians 2: 8)
That he looked on all his achievements as so much trash? (Phillipians 3: 7-8)
That if we could earn our own salvation that Christ died for nothing? (Galatians 2: 21)
There is no doubt that God does for us what we could never do for ourselves. We’re human. We’ll never be good enough to achieve our own salvation. We all fall short. God’s mercy and love goes deeper than our worst shortcomings.
So how does that fit in with being judged by Christ and receiving what we deserve? Although I honestly don’t know, I suspect it has something to do with the sin of presumption. We can go from one extreme to the other. We might think: If I’m saved by faith in what Christ did for me on the cross, I’ve got it made in the shade. I don’t have to worry about a thing. This warped assumption of pre-emptive forgiveness tempts us to think we might as well do whatever our self-will dictates because we’ve got a free pass.
That’s not what Paul did. Once he had a direct encounter with Christ, Paul saw that it was all about what Christ did, not what we did. Nevertheless, after that encounter, Paul doubled his efforts to spread the good news throughout the known world. He preached, risked life and limb, endured beatings, jail, shipwreck, and more. Why bother if it doesn’t matter what we do? It was because of his faith in Christ. In other words, Paul’s works didn’t earn his salvation, but his trust in God’s priceless gift of salvation impelled Paul to share what he’d been given with others.
It isn’t so much a question of faith versus works, but of which comes first. If we think of our works as merit badges that will put God in debt to us and owe us salvation, we have a pretty low opinion of God’s grace. On the other hand, our acceptance of God’s grace, along with his forgiveness of the wrongs we could never make right, produces gratitude and trust. That’s what inspires us to reach out in love and service. We will be judged on our faith but the evidence of our faith is not in what we say we believe but in how we live our lives.
Prayer: Lord, live Your love through me.
Reflection: Actions speak louder than words. What are my actions saying about my faith today?
Paul, also called Saul of Tarsus, headed to Damascus to persecute Christians. On the way, he was blinded following an encounter with the risen Christ and had a conversion experience, but Ananias didn’t know that.
When God called Ananias, he responded, “Here I am, Lord.” So far, so good. Then God asked him to go to Saul, lay hands on him, and heal him of his blindness. If we read between the lines in Acts 9, it’s clear that Ananias’ response was, “Lord, are you sure you know what you’re doing? I’ve heard about this Saul, and he came here to persecute your followers.” Whether Ananias was reluctant to put such a threat to Christianity back in commission, or for his own personal safety, or both, he still remained open to God’s guidance.
God revealed to Ananaias His plan to empower Saul to share the Good News with Gentiles as well as Jews. It took three days before Ananias went to Saul, but he did go. I can relate to his hesitancy, but I also suspect God was using that time. Both Saul and Ananias were both learning to see with the eyes of faith. When he entered the house where Saul was staying, Ananias greeted him as “Brother Saul.” What a change of heart! As Ananias placed his hands on Saul and restored his sight, Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit.
We can take heart from Ananias. It’s okay to face our doubts and fears and reason them out with God (or with a trusted spiritual guide.) God will meet us at our roadblocks and either remove them or enable us to overcome them. The Lord may be inviting us to reach out to someone today. Maybe it’s someone we might not think needs our help, or someone we even find threatening. It might be the perfectly dressed soccer mom whose kids always sit still at church while ours fidget and squirm. It might be the sullen teen with the dark eye makeup and darker scowl that our duaghter befriended. Maybe it’s the colleague at work that is a little too charming or the pastor who seems so full of wisdom we suspect he has all the answers to life.
Who might need our understanding and help today? It might be the one we least expect.
Adapted from, “Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes.”
“You cannot follow me now where I am going,” answered Jesus; “but later you will follow me.” John 13: 36b
Jesus’ comment got me thinking about Purgatory. What if, for some reason, we can’t follow Him now? I believe there’s still a chance we’ll be able to follow him later.
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church. (1030-1031) Although not specifically mentioned in Scripture, the teaching on Purgatory is deduced from certain Scriptural texts and the practice of praying for the dead also mentioned in Scripture.
I came to my own personal understanding of Purgatory some years ago, when someone I loved very much died. Because he had deteriorated mentally and physically, I wondered if he had been able to fully turn toward the Light before his passing. Because only God truly knows each human heart, none of us are in a position to judge anyone else. Still, I wrestled with the question: What happens to someone whose body gives out before fully repenting?
Of course, God respects our free will. Those who freely choose to reject God’s love–who refuse to love God, neighbor, and/or self, who refuse to change–separate themselves from union with God who is Love. That definitive self-exclusion is called “hell.” If our hearts are not completely one with God’s will, we wouldn’t be happy in heaven anyway.
But God is also beyond time, and knows our choices before we do. It brought me great comfort to think that God wouldn’t pull the plug ten minutes before any repentant heart had time to fully turn around. I began to see the concept of Purgatory as an extension of God’s mercy. We are given all the “time” God knows we need to bring our hearts into alignment with His perfect will. If we haven’t completed our journey of spiritual growth on this side of the Earth plane, God will provide us with whatever we need on the other side. As long as we are willing—even if we aren’t able to follow Christ now—we’ll be able to follow Him later…whenever “later” happens to be.
Prayer: Merciful Savior, grant that I may follow you.
Reflection: What is holding you back from following where Christ leads today?