Meditation for the week of May 9, 2016
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Place yourself in God’s presence, surrendering yourself to him and offering him praise and thanksgiving.
In a novel writing class I recently took, I learned that in order for a story to be a story, its characters must have clear goals, motivations, and conflicts. That is, each person in a story should want something for a good reason but not be able to get it easily. The fact that the characters cannot achieve their goals easily is what makes a story unfold: we readers enjoy seeing characters overcoming obstacles to achieve their goals.
When a story fails—when it stalls out or ceases to captivate us—it’s either because a) the main characters’ goals lack worth, b) their motivations aren’t strong enough to make them get off their rear ends and fight, or c) there’s no conflict at all and they get what they want effortlessly. We like stories about people who grow and change as they battle the forces of evil in their particular universe; take away conflict and the story ceases to exist.
We, too, are characters of a story—our story. We each have goals, motivation, and (whether or not we like it) conflict. This conflict can be external, caused by other people or circumstances outside our control. But hardest is the conflict within ourselves: our fear, our doubts, our involuntary obsessions, our need to be right and perfect.
While we cannot "will" ourselves out of our anxieties (try as we might!), we can strength our resolve to battle on by meditating on and accepting God's goodness, power, and love.
The psalmist in today’s Scripture passage shows us how. Like so many of us, he is experiencing some unknown conflict. This conflict throws him into turmoil, so much so that his soul “refuses to be comforted.” He moans. He cannot sleep. He obsesses. He doubts God. He despairs.
His turning point comes in verse 10: “And I say, ‘It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.’” The psalmist identifies the source of his conflict: that he thinks God has abandoned him. He names it and brings it to the light. As soon as he has clarity about the source of his problem - as soon as he "lets go" of it and turns it over to God - he discovers he is now able to take a positive step forward:
I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
yea, I will remember thy wonders of old.
I will meditate on all they work,
and muse on thy mighty deeds. (11-12)
Here is the key to strengthening our motivation to fight for our life’s goals: recalling to mind the deeds of the Lord. God is our strength and salvation. The Holy Spirit is always at work, leading us through our conflict, even when we cannot see Him:
Thy way was through the sea,
thy path through the great waters;
yet thy footprints were unseen. (19)
The psalmist is making an act of faith. He cannot see God in the midst of his own inner turmoil, but in calling to mind God’s love for His people, his faith grows and he gains peace of mind.
God wants our good. He's fighting for us. He loves us. He suffered and suffers with us because He longs to unite us to Himself. He's with us in our conflicts, even the conflict inside our head. God is our hope and our strength.
Choose one or two of the following questions to consider:
- Think of a struggle you had in the past. How did God lead you through it?
- Faith is both a grace and a human act (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 153-155). In what ways have you experienced faith as a grace? In what ways have you experienced faith as an act of your own will?
- Are you willing to “sit with” and accept your anxiety as it happens? Or do you make yourself more anxious by being anxious about your anxiety? (It’s okay to laugh!)
- Like the psalmist, I find that writing out my worries and fears helps me gain perspective on them, making room in my heart for God to work. What activities help you when you’re anxious?
Bring your needs and wants to our loving God.
O God, Thou art my God, in Thee will I hope! Thou wilt be my help and my refuge. I shall not fear, for not only art Thou with me but Thou art in me and I in Thee. Amen. (St. Francis de Sales)