Sunday, July 30, 2017
When Life Is Overwhelming - Here Is How God Provides
Coasting through the days of summer, I hit a juncture where life for many people I knew and cared about was falling apart.
I was struggling to find ways to encourage and support my soul as I prayed for -
- ten people dealing with cancer;
- close friends facing strained family relationships;
- two sudden deaths, one a beloved mother, and the other a retired clergy spouse.
In addition to supporting others in their struggles, I dealt with demons from my past that surface sometimes daily as I work to stay present. Compassion and sadness I was feeling for everyone and everything plowed through the bottom of my heart, hardly able to contain all that I felt.
And yet, I find respite in small things like -
- hearing the birds chirp outside each day;
- watching the two little boys next door grow and change;
- swimming five times a week;
- lingering on phone calls from my daughter in Oregon.
I felt hope the day I picked blueberries with my daughter who lives close by, and again with a friend and her daughter. All these moments offer a blessed pause from the strain and sorrow that life brings.
There are the hard and horrible things and there are the sweet and precious things. Life brings both.
During the hard and difficult times, God in God's mercy heard the cry of my heart and gave me directives to carry me along:
1. Continue to begin my day with God and prayer. Wendy Wright in her book The Time Between - Cycles and Rhythms of Ordinary Time, says in the preface, "Saint Paul enjoined us to 'pray always.' By this I don't believe Paul meant we are always to be 'saying our prayers,' but rather that our entire life must become infused with a spirit of prayerful awareness of God's presence, gifts, challenges and call to us. This attentive awareness is fostered in many ways: we read scripture, pray, worship, wait in silence, engage in works of justice and mercy, read devotional books and share our faith with others."
2. "Listen with the ear of your heart," says St. Benedict (480-547 A.D.), a Catholic saint in his book offering directives for daily life - The Rule of St. Benedict. Such listening brings forth compassion and care to another. "Listening with the ear of your heart," means that you are listening with intention, not thinking about what you are going to say next. When we offer complete attention, we are giving the speaker a part of our self - a piece of our heart. We find words to say or the answers we need as we are present to the other. Listening to others sharpens our ability to listen when God speaks.
3. Ask God to surround your heart with compassion - compassion for yourself and for communication with others. With each encounter look to the heart of what the person is saying, reflect their words and walk beside them with prayer and acts of kindness, offering tangible reminders of Jesus' words, "I will be with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20).
4.Live with gratitude. Keep a list each day of things for which you are grateful. Gratitude offers a different perspective than reality - that all is not overwhelming and difficult. Gratitude encourages an awareness of God's presence, provision and faithfulness, and helps me acknowledge goodness even when life is challenging.
God's mercy and provision came forth with directives to strengthen my path and deepen my walk during these days when others are carrying heavy burdens and I am walking beside. And I get the small gifts of time with those I love, when I move through the blueberry bushes, plucking the fruit with family and friends. For this and for God's merciful insight about how to live, gratitude fills my soul.
For Your Reflection:
1. How does God come to you when friends are struggling and you are trying to help?
2. Remember God's appearances as encouragement for how God really does know your needs as you are working to be the hands and feet of Christ wherever you go.
Prayer: In your generosity, God, I can find what I need to be present to others in suffering while I face my own work. Your compassion living in me enables me to care for those who are in need as well as cover my heart. For everything you give, I am grateful. Amen.