Very often I use a phone app called “Waze” to help me get from point A to point B. With step by step instructions, I generally get to where I want to go. And in the event “Waze” can’t find the spot, the Apple map app usually can.
Life of course doesn’t work that way. For, as they saying goes, if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. We might have all kinds of plans, but the Holy Spirit has a way of changing them by helping us to learn what we are called to do.
That can be pretty tough though sometimes. Life can be quite hard. We can have setbacks of all kinds; we can start something with a big dream or feel called to do something only to find that getting there is awfully tough.
Such is the case for the Israelites in our first reading this week. They’ve gotten out of Egypt and are no longer slaves. God has parted the Red Sea, led them into freedom. But now, it’s been a while since all that happened. The whole promised land thing hasn’t come to fulfillment. And our first reading finds the Israelites grumbling, forgetting about how bad things were in Egypt, thinking that it was in fact better there because the road to the promised land is taking a long time to travel. Might it be God left them? Far from it.
The great preacher Billy Graham once told a story of a man who became shipwrecked on a deserted island years ago. He managed to build himself a hut to live in and with it stored the possessions he was able to salvage from his boat after it was wrecked.
He would watch every day for some sign of a ship or airplane passing by. He prayed to God for help. Some days he would get discouraged and wonder if he would ever get off that island, but still … he prayed.
One day he was on the other end of the island and noticed some smoke coming from the direction of his hut. He ran as fast as he could back to the hut and then he realized that his fears had come true. His hut and all his belongings were destroyed by a fire. All that was left was the smoke and rubble of it all.
He asked God why did this have to happen. He did not understand. Soon he would find out. Later that day a ship appeared on the horizon and soon landed on the island and rescued him. They told him that they were plotting a distinct course and noticed smoke off in the distance and thought the smoke was a signal for help.
It was a sign for much needed help and it was a sign from God that He was still in control and He would not forsake His beloved child even if there was a doubt or not.
Out of the ashes of this life we can build another day. We can have beauty for ashes.
The point? God is in control. And just as Ash Wednesday where we start Lent each year leads to the renewal and joy of Easter, the same is true with respect to our lives. So what can we do when we find ourselves like our ancestors in the first reading, wandering trying to find a way out, wondering where God is?
For starters, we can pray. Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. All seeming lost, He prays. And on Good Friday, He prays again – A Psalm, My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Seemingly at that moment, the prayer is not answered. But it does not mean the Father has ignored the pleas of the Son. When we pray we are reminded of God’s love for us. Sometimes we can also just mediate too. I like to sometimes sit in silence before the tabernacle, or just gaze at the stars of the sky. It allows me to feel God’s presence, and even when I’m going through challenging things, I am reminded I am not in the battle alone.
Second, related to prayer, Mass is our perfect prayer. When we go to Mass, we are also given food for the journey. We recall all that God has done for us, and receive the sacrificial love of the Body of our Lord. Remember the words of the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer: “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…” No matter how challenging or difficult a situation may seem, remember we are not in it alone, ever. Mass gives us a powerful reminder of that every time we gather around the Lord’s table.
Third, sometimes we can learn things along our journey into the promised land if you will, and these things make us better in the end. We can learn from our mistakes. We can look back and realize a tough job or class or volunteer position we said yes to ultimately helped us to become even better at our vocation.
Fourth, it’s important to believe in ourselves. Each of us are given different gifts; and there are some things we have to accept we cannot do. I will never be a Minnesota Viking for instance. But there are also so many things we can do. This is something I share with the school kids at Mass at the end of the year. I invite them to look back to the fall, and where they are now and see all the amazing things they learned along the way from their parents and teachers and through hard work. Yes there are some things we can’t do and will never be able to do; but there are also so many things we can do but quit too quickly because it’s hard.
Lastly, never forget you are never alone. The Israelites not only had God, they had Moses to lead them and other good leaders among the people too who ultimately helped them get to the promised land. Our presence with others who are going through adversity can do so much, and the same is true when we are going through difficult times too. It’s so important to not be afraid to ask for help and counsel, for as a body of believers we build one another up.
There is no getting around the reality that life can be very difficult at times. But just as the Israelites eventually reached their homeland, we will reach ours of heaven too. When we wonder “God, are you out there?” may we never forget that Goes was not limited to being with us for 33 years two millennia ago, but that He continues to be active within our world, and within our lives. God has a plan for you – He didn’t say it would be easy, but He did promise that He would be with you and all of us until the end of time. So, as they say, “trust the process” and remember that while the journey might be tough at times, in the end with God, with His continual love, with the virtues He gave you and other people who fill your life, you too will enter into your eternal reward as we persevere on the journey of life through it’s peaks and valleys.
Have a great week,