Tag Archives: Faith

Broken! God, where are you?

God, where are you? Have you ever gotten to that point where you look around, and the pitiable state people are in; the deplorable state of affairs just makes you wonder if God exists for real, and if He does, why He’s watching quietly as everything goes (seems to go) awry? This past week I’ve found myself in related instances. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes might bring into view a very bleak perspective of things.

A couple of days ago, my small sis came home looking so broken. Her eyes were all droopy and, her shoulders slouched. I could tell all was not well with her. “I cried today”, she told me.

I was in the kitchen preparing supper, so I just paused, knife in hand to look at her. “Why?”  I asked her.

A dejected sigh escaped her, before she answered, “When I was coming home, I saw this child on the street. From my estimation, he couldn’t be older than five. He was seated, leaning against a wall. I wanted to give him some biscuits I’d bought because I figured he was hungry. He was asleep, so I tried waking him up but he wouldn’t open his eyes”.

I was expecting the worst at that point… and I started dreading that the next words coming out of her mouth would be, he was dead. God-forbid! She sniffled before continuing, “I thought he was on drugs or something. Maybe some other kids already introduced him to them.”

“For most street kids it’s some sort of coping mechanism,” I explained. Then I figured he was only a small boy. I don’t have much experience with babies that I can use as some point of reference but I know some fall into deep sleep when they do get to sleep. So I also told her the same thing; or maybe, he’d been hungry for so long so he was too weak. I hoped it was the former. I know how it feels to go for a long time without food and honestly, I wouldn’t wish that, even on my worst enemy.

“When I figured he wasn’t waking up I just tucked the packet of biscuits under his sweater so the older kids wouldn’t snatch them from him. Guess what Aly? That’s when I noticed he didn’t have legs”.

“What?” I couldn’t help my surprised look. It’s not unusual to see a street child whose legs have been amputated, or who was born with under developed limbs, but hearing that about a homeless boy, and who was of such a tender age for that matter, made my heart bleed. He was out on the cold streets alone, and helpless. It certainly had to be harder for him living out in this callous world, with no one to fend for him or defend him.

His mom must have left him out there when she figured he was going to be a differently abled child. How unfair, I thought. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to live, knowing I left him out there,” my sister interrupted my momentary thoughts. “I haven’t a clue where he is. I’m scarred Aly.” She seemed broken, as those words left her mouth.

It wasn’t hard to imagine how tormented she must have been feeling. She has a big heart, and half of the times she does things even I have trouble comprehending. Sometimes I ask her not to let people take advantage of her kindness, because that’s just who she is. If there’s any weakness in her, I can bet that would be her biggest weak spot. I fear it would make her too gullible. But that aside, there was a baby living out there on the cold streets alone. The thought itself made my heart ache.

“God knows where that boy is,” I told her, “so let’s pray for Him to provide for him and that He may also keep him from harm’s way”. Nodding, she acquiesced. I could tell she would have wanted to do more for the child, but as it is, we’re so strapped for cash it hurts. Nowadays we’re merely getting by…

This and some other incidents reminded me of this Lenten reflection/prayer:

“My Jesus, the world still has you on trial. It keeps asking who You are and why You make the demands You make. It asks over and over the question, ‘if You’re God’s Son, why do You permit the world to be in the state it’s in?’

Why are you so silent?”

“…Your humility frustrates me, and makes me uncomfortable. Your strength before Pilate as You drank deeply from the power of the Father, gives me the answer to my question- The Father’s Will. The Father permits many sufferings in my life, but it’s all for my good. If only I too could be silent in the face of worldly prudence- steadfast in the faith when all seems lost; calm when accused unjustly; free from tyranny of human respect; ready to do the Father’s will, no matter how difficult”.

“Silent Jesus, give us all the graces we need to stand tall in the face of the ridicule of the world. Give the poor the strength not to succumb to their privation, but to be ever aware of their dignity as sons of God. Grant that we may not bend to the crippling disease of worldly glory, but be willing to be deprived of all things rather than lose your friendship.

My Jesus, though we are accused daily of being fools, let the vision of quiet dignity standing before monstrous injustice, give us all the courage to be your followers. Amen”.

 

Close of the Year of the Divine Mercy

divine-mercy

Last Sunday but one marked the close of the year of the Divine Mercy. That sounds weird I know; because God’s mercy is timeless and lasts for all time. However, this year we have been celebrating the year of God’s Divine Mercy. Thinking of what that title alludes to; the hopes and promises… it’s so easy to get discouraged if those prayers don’t come to fruition just yet.

That’s the situation my family and I find ourselves in. We’d hoped this year would somehow bring some relief after all we’ve been through but as this year comes to end what we feel is utter discouragement. Most of the things we had prayed would come to pass didn’t.

In any case things seemed to have gotten worse. For instance, dad’s drinking worsened and he squandered most of the money he had set aside for our school fees. So now we’re always getting in constant arguments with him because of that. Additionally, he completely neglected mom completely so basically the only thing that keeps them together is the marriage certificate.

Since he works out of town, he only comes home when he needs to withdraw a large amount of money from the bank. Normally he will call her to notify he’s coming home but as it is he’ll just take a detour, to some nearby bar and by the time he comes home it will be the next day at dawn, in a drunken stupor. It goes without saying that in that state there can be no civil conversation between him and anyone. When he talks it’s usually annoying because all he does is offend everyone.

Later in the afternoon he’ll wake up and go back to the bar. In all honesty, I cannot remember the last time I saw him eating at home. Mom, as a result of this, has been so stressed lately. If it wasn’t for the fact that I believe marriages are meant to be for keeps –in good times and bad times- I’d suggest she file for divorce and subsequently institute proceedings to get a church annulment.

Whatever little faith I had in matters marriage has completely waned. Now I feel like marriage is just a prison; an institution that one walks in filled with hope but gradually closes in on someone, leaving them constricted and without a way out. Mom’s a prisoner of love, and this year has left me absolutely doubtless that if she had married a different man she would have been very happy. A far-fetched dream from the misery, that is her life.

So now that the year of the Divine Mercy is behind us, I’m almost feeling desperate. Our lives completely denote the saying, that ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’; even with everything around us changing, the only constant has been problems; which obviously everyone has. But my faith in God keeps reminding me that all hope is not lost because God’s mercy is timeless.

I would imagine there are very many people who are in similar situations; feeling spent because life seems to continue kicking even when someone’s already down. However, there’s one thing I refuse to give up on; hope. So if you’re feeling like my family and I are, don’t give up just yet. There’s hope. I know that because there’s this deep conviction I have that God listens; so if you have been praying and hoping, that big break is in the offing. Believe it…faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, remember?

All through, since I became aware of my own existence, I’ve always believed God never disappoints those who hope in Him; and more often than not, He’s proved me right. So today, even if you’re feeling distraught, don’t give up; because tomorrow we’ll be a better day. Why, you ask? Because He lives.

Perfectly imperfect

Do you ever wake up and wonder why you’re on this earth? What purpose you’re meant to achieve? Sometimes I feel that. Lately my sisters and I have been asking that a lot. The stage we’re in currently puts us in that situation where we constantly question the purpose we’re meant to accomplish. Sometimes life does that to people…

Like an answer to these questions, I found an old post I had written a while back but it was just a rough draft I’d scribbled on my notebook. As I was reading it, I felt some sense of calm descend upon me, as I was reminded of something important; each one of us has a purpose we’re meant to accomplish. We might not have realized it yet but in time it will be revealed to us.

That particular draft I’d written one Sunday evening, after hearing the story at mass earlier that day. While giving his sermon, the deacon had told us about a man who owned two jars. One was in perfectly good condition, while the other one had a crack on it.

Every morning this man would wake up and he would carry the two jars down to the river. Given the jars’ condition, it always happened that the man would get back home with the perfect jar full, whereas the other one was almost empty.

For many days, the broken jar wondered why its owner insisted on using it when he should already have discarded it. It was broken; imperfect; of what use was it? Eventually it asked the man why he was still using it, yet it always got home almost empty, unlike the perfect jar, which served its function perfectly. Affectionately, the man asked the jar to pay close attention the next day, when they’d be coming back from the river.

Anxiously, the jar waited for the next morning. Soon it was going to find out what purpose it was meant to achieve. The next day finally came and as instructed, the jar watched closely as the man carried it and the perfect jar back to the house.

On its side were beautiful flowers lined along the path. The man explained that he had noticed the jar’s defect and had decided to make use of it. He had planted flowers along the way and watered them every single day with the water leaking from the jar. From its imperfection, the flowers had been nourished. The man further explained that its perceived imperfection made it perfect for a different purpose.

Given that humans are flawed beings, I would say each one of us is like the broken jar. In our own way we’re all broken. We’re imperfect. Like my sisters and myself, someone might be looking at the life they’re leading and they might be wondering what good could possibly come from it.

Well, here’s the thing; our lives might not be perfect; we are undoubtedly imperfect, but the good news is that God focuses on our little imperfections and He brings out the best from them. If I could use examples of people we know or might have heard of; Simon Peter had imperfections of his own. He denied Christ three times, among other things, yet Jesus chose him to be the rock on which His church would be founded.

St. Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a persecutor of Christians. Yet, unbelievably, he became one of the most acclaimed men in history. God didn’t shun him, instead he chose him as one of his humble servants; through someone society detested He made His name known. St, Augustine was also a flawed man and we now celebrate him as a saint…

Imperfections may vary. It could be a physical challenge that one has; it could be the abject poverty which hinders one from achieving their dreams; it could be a sinful life one is living…but as the saying goes, ‘all saints have a past and all sinners have a future.

Point is, we shouldn’t let the current stage we’re in, in life discourage us. We’re capable of so much, even in our imperfections; because those imperfections are what make us unique and therefore perfect. So if you’re there wondering what purpose you’re meant to fulfill, don’t give up on yourself, or on life. Because like the broken jar, in time God will reveal to us too what plans He has in store for us.

We’re not put on this earth because we’re perfect, or to lead perfect lives. On the contrary, God appoints each one us for a special mission, fully aware of our imperfections; and He doesn’t love us less. So if He, who is the quintessence of perfection accepts us in all our ‘flawedness’, who are we to love ourselves, or our lives less?

Since it might take a while before we discover what we’re meant to accomplish in this life, we should take each day as it comes…and be the best we can be…and whatever the situation is, we shouldn’t despair.

Year of restoration

The Divine Mercy

I don’t know about everyone else, but personally I know this year started on a very low note. I hate to say it out loud but that’s a fact. It hasn’t been so just for me, but even for my whole family. Things have been pretty messy. And by messy I mean the rock-meet-bottom kinda messy.

I even feel like I forgot how it feels to be truly happy, because when I will myself to forget, even if only for a few minutes, the things happening around me, something just happens and it knocks me back down; reminds me of the harsh reality.

Basically, all these problems my family and I are having are mainly financial. Their genesis was mom quitting her job more than a year ago. As it is, she was the sole bread winner, and I say ‘sole’ because even though dad has always earned more than her, he just never helped out much; therefore everything that required money had mom digging into her purse. All dad did was pay the mortgage and pay our school fee; but that had stopped at some point.

Before mom quit her job, there had been lots of tension at her work place. The company she was working for had started closing down some of their branches so employees were just being dismissed arbitrarily; without due notice or any valid reason. We figured it wouldn’t be long before mom was also shown the door in the process of resizing; it was only inevitable given how things were going. When she consulted my sisters and I, we agreed it was best she quit before they humiliated her.

We knew life wouldn’t be easy if she quit, but we had figured she was going to lose her job either way and if she waited for them to throw her out she would leave the company she had worked for, for about fifteen years with her dignity frayed. That we couldn’t let happen, because then she wouldn’t be able to claim any benefits without seeking a court’s intervention; a process which would require her to pay for the legal services.

Eventually she did and since then it has been a downhill turn. A few weeks before she quit, she started her own business, when she’d taken her annual leave. She invested most of her savings in it but the fledgling business remained our main source of income. Sadly, the expenses far outweighed the income and on 31st of last month, while we were preparing to cross over to the New Year, she closed up.

The worst part about all this is that though my sisters and I are perfectly capable of working, getting jobs has been the perfect definition of a mission impossible. But that story I’ll save for another day because again it’s too depressing. One would wonder where dad has been when all this was happening but the truth is he’s just been too caught up in his own world, imbibing mostly.

What saddens me most is that he’s still the same person he’s been since we were kids; too stingy with his own money. He doesn’t invest in something unless he feels it benefits him somehow. Buying something as basic as food doesn’t count as important in his books, so now that mom’s out of work and he’s the only one making money, he gives us money only when he’s in a good mood; which happens once in a blue moon.

Before mom closed down her business, I had thought a lot about it, wondering how we were going to survive but then I thought, this far my family and I have come has been made possible by God. Ergo, there would be no need to worry. Even when we have very little or nothing to eat, I think of this situation we’re in as the desert the Israelites were stuck in when God rescued them out of Egypt. He provided them with manna. It wasn’t the best food, but it kept them from starving.

Things have been so bad because dad never gives freely and when anyone of us asks for something, he’ll just snap. About three weeks ago he came home one morning at six, drunken silly and he said we were all like birds, always waiting open-mouthed for him to feed us. Personally, I was hurt by those words because he said it, knowing how much we’ve struggled. However, I felt most for mom. She’s laboured for years, just to see this family’s needs catered for, and now that things aren’t going too well for her, he insults her in such a belittling way.

It’s true; I feel we’ve hit rock-bottom. Every new day that comes is another one for us to keep pushing on; trying to jump all the hurdles, lined up on our way, which feel unbearably many and awfully steep; but every time I remind myself to hold on, because as long as God reigns, there is hope.

About two Sundays ago, we were celebrating the baptism of Christ. The priest said a baptism signifies a new beginning; leaving behind the old life and taking up a new identity as a child of God. He further said that this is a year of restoration. All that had been lost, God will restore; and every little thing that has caused us pain will be fixed.

Furthermore, this is the year of the Divine Mercy; a Holy year of Mercy.

That is the message I’m sharing with you all. The year might have gotten off to a bad start, but that’s not reason enough for us to get discouraged, because God’s got our problems, all in control.

 

 

 

Lord, help me know your ways

Because the Lord is righteous and good, He teaches sinners the path they should follow.

He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them His will.

With faithfulness and love He leads all who keep His covenant and obey His commandments. (Psalms 25: 8-10)

Today is the first Sunday of Advent (the period preceding Christmas). I just can’t believe how the time has flown. This would be that part where I just stare into space and ask, “Where did all the time go?”

Christmas is practically right around the corner. That still sounds hard to believe. People have actually started putting up Christmas decorations because in less than a month we’ll be celebrating the birth of Christ. Would you believe that?

Many people around the world –Christians and non-Christians alike- are waiting excitedly for that festive season. To the former it is because the birth of Christ signifies so much; new beginnings and all, whereas to the latter it’s about the festivities; fun trips, parties, gifts…merrymaking and all.

In my opinion, Christmas also shows that the year is coming to end. We’re counting days now, before we cross over to Year 2016. That means this is that time of the year when we start evaluating whether we achieved the resolutions we set when the New Year was starting.

The verse above (in italics) was our responsorial psalm in church today, and it had me thinking about a few things.

Primarily, it’s a prayer, asking for God’s guidance. That reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago. We were talking about relationships and he asked me how one knows when they’ve found ‘the one’.

As I’m not a love guru, I answered him based on my Christian belief and a few experiences. For starters, I am of the opinion that relationships don’t last nowadays. And if I was to put in my two cents worth on the matter, I would say it’s because majority of us lost track of what people should be looking for in relationships. If for instance, two people get together for financial reasons, it goes without saying that if God-forbid the money runs out, even the relationship goes, ‘bye-bye’.

There’s this one time my sisters and I paid our paternal grams a visit and she was saying, “Nowadays young people are spending too much money on weddings, even taking loans to fund those extravagant events, yet very few of them are lasting for more than five years”.

So what’s the problem really?

I feel many people have turned away from God. Sex is not sacred anymore, in any case it’s been reduced into a currency that the better of us give in exchange for goods and services; people worship money, such that the penurious are treated like pariahs, who don’t have a place in society; and because of this importance we’ve attached to money, people are doing just about anything to get it. We’re practically ignoring all that’s right because as most ask, “How far will being good get you?”

In my humble opinion, we should go back to God. Seek His guidance in all that we do, and He will never fail us. Regarding the question my friend asked me about knowing when you’ve found the right partner, I told him to pray. That sounds cliché I know, but it’s something I learned from experience.

See there’s this guy I was so into; I even told my mom about him because I was almost sure he was the one I would be spending forever with. He proposed informally and that put me in that place where I knew the decision I would make would be one of the most important ones I’d be making in my life. So I embarked on praying, asking God to help me make the right choice.

It’s been a few years since then and given that I’m still single, it obviously means I said no. In the course of the brief relationship we had, I found out a few things, which if I had found out later, we would have divorced. Point is, praying feels a bit overrated, especially for those who haven’t established that personal connection with God, but it actually works.

However, there’s one thing I believe; for as long as the sun shines and the earth rotates in its axis, we’ll always need God; whether we realize it or not. And like my friend asked me, “How do you know you’re making the right choice?”

My answer was, “God will grant you that discernment, to know what is right or wrong. The conviction will be so strong and everything around you will point towards the right thing/person. You will know it.”

Therefore, as we prepare our hearts to welcome the new-born Christ in our hearts, and as we assess the decisions we’ve been making since the year began, it’s imperative that we seek God’s guidance in all we do, and trust me; God never fails those who rely on Him.

“Teach me your ways, O Lord;

Make them known to me.

Teach me to live according to your truth,

for you are my God, who saves me.

I always trust in you. (Psalms 25: 4-5).

Matters Faith

Matters faith

In my opinion, when it comes to matters faith, there are basically two categories of believers, who can further be grouped into four other sub groups:-

  1. The suffering believers
  2. The content believers

The suffering believers are fundamentally those who are immersed in unimaginable perils or typical glitches that could be feeling a little weighty at the moment. They can be divided into two:

  •  those who drift further away from God because they believe He abandoned them and that’s why they’re suffering;
  •  then of course there are those who trust God more at that time because they put their faith in Him to find a way out of their problems.

The content believers are those who are satisfied with the current state of affairs. They can be divided into two:

  • those who drift away from God when they are happy because they are in that bubble of bliss, which bursts eventually and it’s only then that they realize that they can never live without God; think the prodigal son…
  •  then again there are those who get closer to God at this time because they believe it’s only by God’s mercy that they have been able to enjoy the good moments in their life.

Point is, whether we’re struggling beneath the weight of overwhelming miseries, or are in a place in life where we feel life couldn’t be better, the situation we’re in, whether good or bad could determine the relationship we have with God. And it’s a choice we make…

Sometimes when life is too good we drift further and further from God, when we’re too caught up chasing the pleasures of life. One wakes up in the morning but because they are in good health and have servants at their every beck and call and money to indulge their every whim, they forget to say thank you for it all.

Truth is, we don’t always have to present ourselves before God when we need favours from Him. It’s only right that when He grants us our desires we thank Him; and even for those irking situations, because if we remain positive, we’ll see the good in those painful moments.

Unfortunately, our sinful human nature deters us from doing so. More often than not, I have heard a sick person say they can’t wait to get better because in more ways than one, the illness is curtailing their lives in ways so unimaginable.

When they recuperate, they realize that being healthy is not something that should be taken for granted. Looking at it from that perspective, I believe that while the majority of us might hate being in less desirable situations in life, we can choose to look at it from the ‘glass-is-half-full’ perspective: it’s only when we’re freezing during the chilly weather that we realize how much we need the sun; and when the sun’s blistering hot and we can’t stop whining, that’s when we realize we need the rain; we momentarily forget how much we detest mud.

In short, unpleasant situations in life make us appreciate the really good moments. As it is though, in life nothing is constant. Today someone is seated at the helm of a prestigious company; next thing you know they’re church-mouse poor because the company was declared bankrupt;

or maybe one is so healthy today, and tomorrow they’re moving from one doctor to another hoping to get a different diagnosis because they’ve recently discovered they’re suffering from a chronic illness. Such is life; no one knows what the next minute holds.

One thing I know though, is that the God who was there before those who came and went before us, is the same one who still reigns. He makes the earth rotate in its axis, clothes the ground with beautiful greenery and flowers.

If one is in a situation where they are struggling, they should remember the same God who provided for them before is still the one who reigns and will therefore grant them their heart’s desires when the time is right. So one shouldn’t let despair get the better of them.

If on the other hand one is feeling really blessed because for some glorious reason everything is falling into place, they should remember to hold on to God, because He who gave them all that gladdens their heart could take it all back if He deemed it fit; say when someone becomes too arrogant because their bank accounts are bursting at the seams and they could buy anything money can get them, so the need to be humble escapes them.

Whatever stage we’re in, we should remember nothing in life is constant; and as the cliché goes, ‘life is full of surprises’. What we need to always remember though, is that God never changes; and neither do His ways. If we don’t have what we need today, it’s not because He hates us. And when humility feels like a needless task because we have everything we could possibly want, we should remember that tomorrow could be a very different day.

Either way, we need God. When we’re happy, we should thank God and remember to treat everyone else with kindness. We shouldn’t wait for life to deal us tragic blows for us to grasp the whole concept of humility; and if we don’t have, we shouldn’t be bitter, despising all those who are blessed, because when our time comes, God will bless us too.

The dejected man’s cry

“Month after month I have nothing to live for; night after night brings me grief. When I lie down to sleep, the hours drag; I toss all night and long for dawn…Remember O God, my life is only a breath; my happiness has already ended.” (Job 7: 3-7).

Sometimes when I’m listening to songs, the poignant ones especially, when I’m feeling down, I feel like each word was written just for me; and somehow, as the songs play on I feel the weight on my chest ebb. I guess that’s why I love songs so much. They take me to places, and then bring me back to the present moment. In a way they heal me.

Today, I have the same nostalgic feeling, only that it’s not a song that has me drenched in those emotions. The words above are Job’s cry to God when the devil took everything away from him and God allowed it because he knew Job would forever remain faithful to him, no matter how much pain he went through; no matter how much tribulations the devil put him through.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Job’s story an awful lot. The trials Satan put him through were just too many for a mere mortal to tolerate. Still, he persevered, and even though at some point he got angry at God, his faith remained firm.

In all honesty I cannot compare my problems to Job’s, but at the same time I feel I have a few of my own too. The thing that has me comparing my situation to Job’s is that for the past few weeks, since the year started, I’ve been feeling so burdened. Mine’s a rough patch though and I have faith I will be getting over it sooner than later; keeping the faith.

However, there are instances when life hits us really bad and we find ourselves losing our faith in God. When things feel like they are spinning out of control, we let go of God; those who are ailing cease asking for God’s healing; the weak stop asking for God to renew their strength…

If Job’s story is anything to go by, then we know that even if the storm seems so ugly; even when it has destroyed everything we’ve ever cared for and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, the sun will always shine.

We can’t refute the fact that Job suffered; and God allowed it. But there’s that issue of God knowing our strengths and weaknesses. He knows what we can stand; what we can handle, and what we can’t. God let Job suffer because He was confident that whatever Satan put him through wouldn’t be enough to weaken his faith.

This shows us that when God allows suffering into our lives, it’s because he believes in us. He doesn’t do that because he hates us, but because he knows our faith in Him is strong. This also goes to show that if God knew we couldn’t stand the tribulations without forsaking our faith, He wouldn’t let us go through some of those very weakening moments which punch the air out of our lungs and we’re left gasping for air, trying to overcome that asphyxiating feeling.

As we can see in Job’s story; for his steadfastness, God blessed the last part of his life than he had blessed his first. He lived for one hundred and forty years after his tribulations and God gave him back what he had lost and even doubled it. (Job 42: 12-16)

Life might be difficult, and we might feel like we’re losing our grip on things; but the truth is God is watching over us and when the time’s right He will come through for us. The secret is to keep believing and trusting in him.