We are just starting a new year and it looks like this is going to be a special one. Not because I feel this is my lucky year (I have learned every day has its blessings and its sorrows; years even more). Not at all. It’s special because I have been through one of those periods of spiritual struggle and it will continue through 2019. It may end with this new year. It may not.
All I know for certain is that I have to re-evangelize myself. Some of my friends and spiritual guides have been warning me to be alert. They noticed, before I did, I am through that battle. But it wasn’t until some days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I clearly saw the chain of events and spiritual hardships I have had since Easter (or before) last year.
This reminds me something a Dominican spiritual guide told me once long ago. He said there were going to be times of weakness but we can count on other people’s strong faith to feed ours. And he mentioned he liked to see then Pope (and now Emeritus) Benedict XVI and get his infectious faith.
He also taught me to stop and weigh things. He suspected I had some kind of mental unbalance and tried to teach me anguish could not make me come to the Lord honestly (at least not in my case). If I let anguish govern me, I wasn’t looking at things properly and couldn’t recognize my sin clearly. And he was right. It took me many years to train myself on this, and even today I fail at it in more than one occasion.
I believe it is necessary for anyone to stop when the spiritual struggle attacks. When we try to fight it back without really observing what is going on, we may miss the origin of things and of the doubts that may raise. That is why it is extremely important to stop in prayer (hopefully a long prayer) to see in peace the circumstances, and with the Lord’s hand and the Spirit’s breath rationalize those things that need to be understood. Faith and reason must always be hand to hand. They do really complement each other and help us understand our humanity.
For people with some kind of mental disability, it is important to separate those elements that belong to you under the influence of your illness and those that belong to you when you are well aware of what’s going on in your body. When I can’t make such differences, I enter in anguish and panic and can’t think properly. Whereas I stop and discern, I can even make better decisions to improve my situation, to treat people and myself better, and even to go to confession and to ask for forgiveness when I hurt people, all this without justifying my wrong-doing.
But also stopping and looking around my own life, helps me remember I need to evangelize myself again. I need to take those pieces of advice I was given in the past and that I have shared with others as well. I need to go back to the Word and re-study, reflect and listen to it again. As Benedict XVI used to say (and Friar Nelson Medina paraphrases) you cannot take your faith for granted. NEVER! It’s a constant work of the believer. And especially during spiritual warfare.
It’s like boxing (I clarify I don’t like boxing): you fall but you must stand-up again. Try as hard as you can, you will be standing up again. Remember that you need to get the Lord’s help to do so, it’s no some kind of thing you achieve if you concentrate… (I may talk about that topic in another opportunity). The Lord will help you if you let Him. So recognize your limits and your strength, entrust yourself to the Lord and do your best. It will never be more than what the Lord does for you to stand up again, but if you don’t do your part, the Lord won’t be able to help you. So, don’t be the barrier for the Lord to glorify Himself with your life and give you all that treasure He has for you.
Trust me, I need to go back to Basics of the Faith 101 every time my weaknesses seem to be the rule of the day. I may feel strong sometimes, but everything looks terribly bad or I feel I am the ugliest human being on earth. If I don’t stop in prayer and let the Lord’s light guide me, I can’t realize how things came to that ugly point. I can’t either understand I am weak to fight my battle alone–which happens many times when you feel you can do it yourself and you leave God aside. Terrible decision!
When the struggle comes, one of the key points we need to face it properly is to be humble. Humility reminds you who you really are. And reminds you WHO the Lord IS.
Don’t get frustrated, or try not to. And if you do, try again to leave that on the Lord’s hand. Indeed, nothing I am saying here I haven’t said it to myself before; since I decided to follow the Lord, this is been a daily basis reminder. I am sure many people out there have also felt this same way. And let me tell you, you will feel it again in the future. This is a process, as everything in life, and nobody has experienced this only a few times. Read the lives of the saints and you will also see how many spiritual hardships they went through. What made them saints? Their capacity to entrust their lives entirely to God.
So, that’s exactly what we have to do. If we do so, those dark periods will be easier to be lived and hope will never live us. In time, we will be able to stand up straight again, no matter how much time the battles take from us. The Lord will always be there, and in your weakest time, He will hold you in His hand. Just let Him.
This works as self-therapy. I am sure every time I feel my faith dismaying, I will come to this blog publication again. Sometimes with more energy, and sometimes with less. You and I just need to keep in mind this is temporary.