Fellas, let’s talk about bad days. Sometimes things just do not seem to be working out. We say our prayers, we do our work, we try to show charity towards our neighbor; but wouldn’t you know it, our neighbor does not show charity back to us. Our work erupts in some kind of colossal failure or enormous roadblock. Our prayer grants us no consolation and we wonder if we are simply going through the motions meaninglessly.
Even worse, we can aggravate these upsetting situations with our own sins, responding to them in ways that fall short of our calling to live in Christian perfection. If we are trying to live in holiness, we will doubtless not notice these failures, which we know could have been avoided if only we were better people. This realization of our weakness might threaten to make us feel even worse! Our life is so hard, we think; if only we were not such bad people and in such a difficult situation, we could become saints. Instead, it feels as though we are slowly being crushed beneath the thumb of God.
In these times, my brothers, we must remember that it is indeed God’s thumb which is pinning us right where we are. Yet this is the God who loved us unto humiliation, unto death on the Cross. Why then would He permit us to be afflicted so? Why would He let us be pressed down in such a miserable place? Perhaps the answer is that amidst all this affliction, we are exactly where we need to be for Him to reveal His love for us.
This seems like a pretty uncomforting reassurance, we might reason! Surely our sinful selves deserve whatever affliction befalls us in this life and more besides- we understand that intellectually, but it really sucks to actually taste it. Yet in such times we must make a special effort to take stock of the all the good we do have. First of all, we have that intellectual awareness that we are receiving less than we deserve- this is more than can be said for many! There are certainly wicked men who go about their lives and see the suffering which comes upon them from time to time not as a reminder of their imperfection but as an unfair imposition upon their righteous persons. We should thank the Lord if we are spared the temptation to such thoughts, and thank Him further for the grace to understand our own unworthiness.
Second, while we feel as though we are being crushed, we have yet to actually be crushed- this can be an important thing of which to remind ourselves! St. Teresa of Calcutta once said “The Lord never gives you anything you cannot handle- I only wish he didn’t trust me so much!” Like the tribe of Israel in the Babylonian captivity, we are tested, but not destroyed. Once we realize this we can begin to take stock of the realities of our situation, and perhaps even surprise ourselves with what we can bear. God, after all, knows us better than we know ourselves- not just our weaknesses, but also our potential for strength.
Third, we may often find that our suffering is an opportunity to learn and grow. Virtues require habituation to develop; though it is extremely contrary to true courage to seek unnecessary danger, we can never perfect our courage if we have no opportunity to practice it, and so too with the other virtues. Perhaps the difficult person in our life is an opportunity to practice fortitude; perhaps the hostile environment in which we find ourselves is an opportunity to practice prudence. Indeed, we should accept whatever such opportunities the Lord gives us, no matter how unglamorous or unimpressive they may seem, with the same gusto that our ancient brothers accepted the hardships of the desert where they sought to grow in faith.
Last of all, we should rejoice at the opportunity to suffer with Christ (as I’ve discussed previously). Just as Our Lord’s unprotected flesh suffered the sting of the whip at His scourging, so too must we from time to time endure blows from which we cannot defend ourselves. Yet God never abandons us in such moments, and even if we fall short, we can take comfort in knowing that He endured all that we suffer and more on our behalf, and yet still stands ready to forgive us. If God is pinning you down with His thumb, then that means you are exactly where you need to be for Him to reveal His love to you. Remember this.