I was listening to a talk the other day by Fr. Mike Schmitz called “Anti-Fragile Faith.” It was hands down one of the best talks I have ever listened to. It inspired me. It made me cry. And it gave me a humbling reality check and a good ol kick in the butt. In the talk he said that we as Christians must not be surprised when suffering or trials come, as it is “necessary for us” to go through many trials to attain Heaven. He went on to say, “I think sometimes we walk through this world as if this world is a cruise ship; as if this world is a picnic field. And the reality is that this world is not a cruise ship, it’s a battleship. And the field to which you and I are walking through is not a picnic field, it is a battlefield.”

There are many days when it’s easy to be surprised by life’s difficulties, and disillusioned when things aren’t going as nice and peaceful as we want them to go. I fall into this same trap of sometimes forgetting that this life is a battle. I don’t know about you but I would much rather prefer going on picnics. There is nothing wrong with desiring to be happy and having some picnics along the way, but if we expect life to treat us gently then we are going to be caught off guard when the moments of difficulty come. The world and the enemy are not going to handle us with kitten gloves, so we must grow strong and resilient as Christians.  A boxer shouldn’t be surprised when they get punched in the face and we as Christians shouldn’t be surprised when trials come to try and knock us down. Trials are what we must train for. We go to mass, we stay close to the sacraments so that we can handle these difficult moments that life throws at us. We can’t be so soft and fragile that when the trials come, we roll over and lose our faith.

Prepare Yourself for Trials

The other day I was reading this Scripture passage and I felt like every word just leaped off the page and hit my soul deeply. It tied in so well with Fr. Mike’s talk. I went through this passage and re-read it line by line, highlighting every word that I needed to hear. It is rich in wisdom, beauty and truth. I printed the reading and posted it to my office bulletin board because I feel like it’s one of those readings that I need to read and chew on daily. I wanted to share it with you (the bold is my own emphasis):

Reading 1 SIR 2:1-11
“My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?  
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.”

 

The Scripture reading urges us to remain “undisturbed in times of trial,” to “cling to Him” in moments of difficulty, to “accept whatever befalls you.” When “crushing misfortune” enters our lives, we still have the ability to trust, to hope, to act. Fr. Mike talked about becoming “spiritually mature” and said that when we develop anti-fragile faith, we not only persevere through trials, but we become better people because of them. Anyone can hang on long enough to wait for suffering to pass, but how many of us can become transformed and made better people through the fire of trials? This must be our prayer as Christians – that we don’t just persevere through difficulties and remain the same, but that we come out the other side more and more transformed into the person Jesus created us to be.

“We shall steer safely through every storm so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God.” –St Francis De Sales

“To trust God in the light is nothing, but trust him in the dark – that is faith.” –C.H. Spurgeon

Hope for Good Things

In the same Scripture passage that tells us to prepare ourselves for trials and adversity, it also tells us to “hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.” It goes on to say,

“Has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?  
Has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.”

This last part of the reading is so important for us to reflect on. The reading reminds us to expect and “prepare” ourselves for difficult times, but that is not the end of the passage. It goes on to offer us hope. It reminds us that Our Lord is compassionate and merciful. He is our protector. There’s no trial we face alone. Granted there are times when it may feel like we are alone or have been forsaken, but our faith is not based on feelings. Our faith is rooted in truth. And sometimes we have to look beyond our present emotions and claim the truth, whether we feel it or not.

When Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France, on February 18th 1858 she told St. Bernadette something profound and worth remembering. She said, ““I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other.” I believe this is the lasting joy that the scripture is referring to. The joy that will be ours in Heaven. The eternal joy. We will not be completely free of trials in this this fallen world of ours, but lasting joy does await us in Heaven.

I hope you will take some time to listen to Fr. Mike’s talk. He articulates his message so beautifully – there is no way I can do it full justice in this blog.

 

 

2019 Drewe DeJesus

Photo by David Marcu from Freely Photos