"Wholeheartedly do the will of God." [Eph 6:6]
When I was in my early twenties, I wanted to spend my days sipping coffee, reading my Bible, saying my prayers, and being left alone by everything that lived and breathed so that I could write articles for God. I didn't want any clouds hanging over my life as I attempted to read, pray, and write for Jesus. Because I was so young, I truly believed that in order to have peace in one's life, every situation had to be perfect. I wanted everything to be perfect so that I could focus on the things of God and my work for God completely undisturbed.
In my quest for tranquility and The Undisturbed Life, I went to any and all lengths to preserve my peace and the way of life that I was determined to live. If the people at work were getting me upset, I would simply quit my job and look for another one. If the neighbors in my apartment were noisy and disruptive, I would move out and find someplace else to live. If people at my church irritated me, I would take my membership someplace else. I wanted to live on the mountaintop with Jesus, my Bible, and my computer, and I didn't want anything or anyone to threaten my tranquility or take it away from me.
As human beings, it's natural for us to want to be comfortable. It's as natural to us as breathing is. When situations take place in our lives that threaten our comfort and infringe upon it, an unseen self-preservation mechanism within us kicks in, and we immediately go into a defensive mode. We do everything we can to protect and shield our comfort zone from any unwanted invasion or intrusion. In my early twenties, I was no exception to this rule.
But sooner or later, God is going to place us in unpleasant or trying circumstances from which we cannot run, and this is precisely what He did in my life. From His throne room in Heaven, the Lord watched me running from discomfort to discomfort year after year. He watched me wearing myself out in my determination to keep people, situations, and life in general from cheating me of my peace. When I wouldn't yield to His will in those situations, by sticking it out in order to learn whatever it was that He was trying to teach me, He was forced to put me in difficult situations from which I could not run. I became trapped. Human beings can endure many things, but if there's one thing no human being likes, it's the feeling of being trapped. Feelings of entrapment bring out the worst in us, don't they? They certainly brought out the worst in me.
It's humorous how spiritual we think we are, isn't it? As long as I was sitting on the mountaintop with Jesus, my Bible, my prayers, and my computer, writing articles beneath a cloudless sky with the warm sun caressing my cheeks, I was like the prophets of old. I was God's anointed messenger, His chosen servant. But when He forced me into difficult circumstances from which I could not run, when He hemmed me in leaving me no retreat whatsoever, I became completely unglued and unraveled, and I saw just how weak, pathetic, untried, unproven, and unfruitful I really was in the sight of the Lord. I also found out the hard way that tears, "hissy fits," and giving the Most High the "cold shoulder" does not work with Him when He places us in difficult circumstances from which we cannot run. I can specifically remember a few times when I put on an "Oscar-winning" performance before the throne of Christ in my prayer time, replete with sobs, pleadings, wheezing, and occasional coughing spasms for effect, but Christ would not budge. When that got me nowhere, I purposely avoided God in prayer for weeks on end. I wanted my mountaintop back. I wanted my cloudless skies. Most of all, I wanted my peace, which had been taken from me. I did not realize in that day, however, that Jesus deliberately placed me in those inescapable and difficult circumstances in order to teach me that His peace doesn't have anything to do with a man's outward circumstances; His peace comes from within. I also discovered that the secret to possessing Christ's peace in the midst of any circumstance we face, good or bad, is to accept His will, trust His will, and completely yield to His will.
To the extent that we are willing to embrace the will of God and surrender to it in every situation that we face is to the extent that His peace and joy will abide within our hearts. Peace and joy don't come by packing up and relocating from situation to situation every time the going gets rough and clouds begin to form. Peace and joy come by yielding to God's will moment by moment in the midst of those circumstances. It is our refusal to accept God's will, trust God's will, and surrender to God's will that cheats us of our peace, not the unpleasant circumstance or situation in which we may presently find ourselves.
In every situation that we face, even the routine and mundane ones, we must always ask ourselves, "What is God's will for me in this situation? What attitude does God want me to embrace as I carry out my duties this day? Is it God's will that I be cheerful as I go throughout my day or that I be miserable? If it is God's will that I be cheerful in my attitude (even though I may not feel cheerful), I must die to my own negative feelings and deliberately try to be cheerful. This is how we learn to die to our own will in order to embrace God's will. We must die in order that He might live His life in and through us.
Let's suppose that you go to work and discover that one of your co-workers has an attitude problem when it comes to you. For whatever reason, your co-worker does not like you. How are you going to respond? God has allowed that unpleasant co-worker to become a part of your work day for a reason. You can quit your job and go elsewhere, as I used to do, in search of more pleasant co-workers. But you will find out, as I did, that when you run from one unpleasant co-worker, Christ will have six more waiting for you at the next job. At some point, you must learn how to stop running, trust, and yield. You must learn to focus on God's will, and not your own will, as you deal with that unpleasant co-worker day in and day out. Your flesh might want to tell the co-worker off, but God's Spirit wants you to treat him or her with kindness, gentleness, patience, and respect. Whose will are you going to yield to – yours or God's? When you yield to God's will, when you treat your co-worker as God wants you to treat him or her, you will find God's peace and joy welling up within your heart in spite of your difficult working situation. But when you resist God's will, and you choose to respond to your co-worker's unpleasantness in a way that is displeasing to God, it is then that you will be cheated and robbed of your inner peace and joy. Your situation at work is not what is robbing you of your peace; it is your disobedient response to it that is doing this.
In Saint Paul's letter to the Church at Ephesus, he instructed them to do the will of God wholeheartedly. Paul knew that this was the secret of inner joy, peace, contentment, and satisfaction. Our outward circumstances have nothing to do with these things, although Satan would have us to believe that they do.
Always focus on God's will minute by minute, second by second, in every single situation that you face in the course of your day. Resign yourself to doing what He wants, instead of what your "flesh" wants. If we make doing the will of God and yielding to the will of God our focus instead of making our problems, hardships, and difficult situations our focus, we will not stumble. We must keep our eyes on the Lord and His will for our lives minute by minute. The minute we take our eyes off of God's specific will for us in any given situation, we end up like Peter, sinking in the waves, because he lost his focus. When we lose our focus, we lose our faith; it's as simple as that.
I received an email from someone several days ago that has left my husband and I extremely troubled and disturbed. We do not believe that the individual who sent the email deliberately set out to offend me, but because he did not exercise wisdom in the things that he wrote, he unknowingly placed himself into the hands of Satan to be used as a weapon to strike at me. Satan guided this man in his words because he knew exactly how they would affect me and my husband when they were hurled. It has been a very difficult week for me and my husband because of this.
I don't think there is anything more challenging than to have to carry on when your heart and spirit are heavy and troubled, but carry on we must. In this painful situation I have to continually focus on God's will and not my own will; otherwise, I will stumble and fall hard. God allowed this situation to come against me. How am I going to respond: my way or God's way? My "flesh" wants to fire back an email to this individual that will leave him picking shrapnel out of his self-esteem for the next two weeks. But the Spirit of God within me demands otherwise! It is the Spirit to whom I must yield, not the demands of my sinful nature. If I am going to do what the Spirit wants, instead of what my flesh wants, I must continually focus on God's will and not my own.
I'm going to treat this man graciously when I run into him. I'm going to pray for God to give him wisdom so that he will never again do to others what he has done to me. I am going to keep on loving this brother in Christ and treating him with the respect Christ demands. I'm going to yield to what the Spirit wants, and not what my flesh wants.
I'm going to keep praying. I'm going to keep studying the Word of God. I'm going to keep going to Mass. I'm going to keep serving the Lord using whatever gifts, talents, and abilities He's given to me for His glory. I am not going to let Satan break my stride, and neither should you when difficult circumstances come your way. If I continually yield to the Lord by doing all of these things, His peace and inner joy will eventually return to my heart even though right now my heart is still smarting from the pain inflicted on me by a well-meaning, but unwise, brother in Christ. But if I resist the will of God by responding to this unpleasant situation in a manner displeasing to God, my turmoil and anguish will only intensify.
Brothers and sisters, let us show our zeal for God by deliberately choosing to do His will, and dying to our own will, moment by moment in each and every situation we find ourselves in throughout the course of our day. To the extent that we are willing to let go of our will in order to embrace God's will is to the extent His peace and joy will abide within our hearts.
To give God anything less than this is a trap set for your soul, not by flesh and blood…
…but by the powers and dominion of Hell.
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