The Word Among Us

October 2011 Issue

You Are Not Alone

Finding Refuge in the Lord

You Are Not Alone: Finding Refuge in the Lord

We all face times in our lives when we feel alone and confused. Our marriage may hit a rough patch, or our children may be struggling. Our bills may be piling up, or our job may be in jeopardy. It can seem so frustrating, and we can feel as if no one understands what we are going though.

Even our times of prayer can be exercises in futility. We feel as if we are in the garden of Gethsemane—all alone while everyone else is asleep. Or we may want to repeat Jesus’ words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:2). In our minds, we know that God didn’t really abandon Jesus—and we know by faith that he hasn’t abandoned us. But our hearts don’t always feel what our minds know to be true.

The good news is that even when we feel abandoned and alone, God is with us every step of the way. He wants to strengthen and encourage us. He wants to console us. He wants to pour his grace on us so that we can find the strength to live as confident children of God, even in the midst of hardships. So let the good news of God’s love and his presence fill your mind and comfort your heart.

God Loves You. “God loves me very much.” This is the most important truth you can hold onto in times of difficulty. Your Father loves you as much as he loves Jesus (John 17:23). He spared Abraham’s son, Isaac, but he did not spare his only Son for you (1 John 4:10). You are the crown of his creation, and he loves you with boundless love (Jeremiah 31:3).

God knows everything about you. He knows when you feel broken, and he wants to help you (Psalm 34:19). He wants to give you the ability to do more than you can even imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He wants you to come to Jesus so that you can find rest (Matthew 11:28).

One day God will make all things new (Revelation 21:5). In the new Jerusalem, he will wipe away every tear from your eyes. There will no more death or mourning, weeping or pain (21:4). Until that day comes, nothing can separate you from his love (Romans 8:39). So trust in God with all your heart (Psalm 62:9). Over and over again, just keep telling yourself, “God knows me, and he loves me.”

Christ in You, the Hope of Glory. Just knowing that God has such love for us can go a long way in helping us deal with our hardships. But there is more to God’s love than the idea of him looking at us with compassion. He is not just up in heaven watching over us; he is with us in a very intimate way.

There is a passage in the Letter to the Colossians that tells us about God’s abiding presence. St. Paul tells the believers at Colossae that in Christ, God has chosen “to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Jesus Christ lives in you! He is present in the depths of your soul. And not only is he in you, he brings with him the “hope for glory.” He is always at work, offering you his insights and giving you hope. He is in the quiet place of your heart, always reminding you of your great and high destiny. You are bound for heaven. No matter what you are facing right now, it pales in comparison to the glory, the healing, the joy, and the fulfillment that await you.

Your Heavenly Teacher. It’s one thing to hear Jesus telling us about heaven, but we still have to live out our lives here on earth. We still get sick, we still face financial hardships, we still lose loved ones. What does the promise of Christ in us, the hope of glory, have to do with the here and now?

A lot.

Jesus doesn’t just tell us about future promises. He is also at work in us every day, helping us to face our challenges with faith and hope. He is at work, forming our character to mirror his so that we can live in peace in the midst of any difficulty life may throw at us.

How does he do this? First, by urging us to take on a heavenly perspective. Lifting our eyes to heaven can help us put our present trials in context. Yes, we may be hurting right now. But by reminding us of our future home in heaven and by telling us that he is with us every step of the way—even when things look bleak—Jesus is comforting and encouraging us.

Second, Christ in us can become our teacher and guide. He is full of wisdom. He sees a much bigger picture than we can ever see. And he loves to share his insights with us. No matter what challenge we are facing, Jesus can help us find solutions. He can show us a path that will keep us focused on him, even as he helps us answer the questions that are troubling us. Jesus doesn’t want just to cheer us up and tell us to have faith. He wants to be intimately involved in our lives. He wants to help us at every step of our journey.

A Call to Console. Many people are suffering as a result of the current economic climate. They need our compassion and our love. Scripture tells us that Jesus always had compassion on the people who came to him. He healed them and fed them (Matthew 14:13-21). When a blind beggar sitting on the roadside cried out to him, he went out of his way to heal him (Mark 10:46-52). And when a man with leprosy showed just a glimmer of faith, Jesus responded with a healing that far surpassed his expectations (Matthew 8:1-3).

Scripture also tells us that even when our difficulties are the result of our own poor choices, God will not abandon us. In his parable of the prodigal son, Jesus told the story of a father whose son ran away with his money. Rather than punish the boy when he returned, this father embraced him and threw a great party for him (Luke 15:11-32). He didn’t condemn the boy; he saved him (John 3:17).

In a book he wrote with two other theologians, Fr. Henri Nouwen commented:

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. (Compassion: A Reflection of the Christian Life, p. 4)

Each of us, whatever challenges we are facing ourselves, should try our best to live out these words. One of the greatest things we can do in our lives is to show compassion for those who are struggling. At its heart, compassion means to “suffer with” someone, to have sympathy for that person and to let that person’s hardships enter in and soften our own hearts. As we begin to open our hearts to the cry of the poor and wounded around us, we will feel the Holy Spirit moving us to offer whatever help we can.

We may start donating to a charitable organization. We may offer to help at a local soup kitchen or get involved in our parish’s food bank. Individually, we may feel moved to offer to pray with someone we know is hurting or to take the time to let a lonely neighbor pour out his or her heart to us. Simply having someone who will listen to us can be a source of deep healing. There are thousands of different ways we can show compassion. All it takes is opened eyes and an open heart.

Jesus, Our Refuge. Sometimes it’s hard to see how Jesus is at work, especially when we are suffering. But if we keep in mind how much God loves us and if we keep in mind that we have Christ in us, the hope of glory, we will find ourselves changing— perhaps slowly—into his likeness. We will find ourselves more peaceful, more tolerant, and more forgiving. In short, we will become more like Jesus.

Pope Benedict XVI has said: “If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One who loves you” (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 38).

How blessed we are to have a God who loves us so much! May he bless us all, especially when we face our own moments of trial and suffering.