It’s an unfortunate fact that many Catholics are ignorant of Scripture. We recognize that private interpretation of Scripture is not the arbiter of truth, and that memorizing isolated verses has the potential to leave us ignorant of important context. But then we sometimes fail to properly use Scripture reading and memorization in our spiritual lives. Although we have the Church to teach us truth, based on both Scripture and Tradition, we still need to read and pray with Scripture to increase our knowledge and holiness.
Familiarity with Scripture can be source of comfort and strength in difficult moments. It can feel impossible sometimes to find the words to pray, or to to quiet our minds to listen for God’s voice. Having verses of Scripture ready for meditating on or simply repeating as a prayer unto themselves can keep fear, stress, and anxiety from consuming us. I confess that I’m not very good at intentionally praying with Scripture (in good times or in bad). But, God often will remind me of a familiar Scripture verse that will give me perspective and strength. Here are some of my favorite verses and the situations in which they are helpful to recall.
When I feel like like a weakling or a failure:
- “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- “I have strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Philippians 4:13).
In my life as a wife and mother, I often feel like I am too weak, too inept, too tired, too sinful, etc. to do what needs to be done (or at least to do it well). I frequently feel like I’ve failed at the tasks set before me, sometimes before I’ve even begun to do them. It helps to remember that we aren’t supposed to feel capable on our own. We are supposed to lean on God and trust that his grace will carry us through.
When I’m worried, anxious, or fearful:
- “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Matthew 6:26-27)
- “Cast all your worries on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
- “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
I tend to be a worrier. It’s a product of my melancholic temperament, I think. I need frequent reminders that God is in charge. He’s handling the things that are too big for me to handle. I must work at not losing sight of the fact that God is taking care of me and my family. Yes, I should work diligently at the work that God has called us to do. But I shouldn’t be consumed by worry about the future as if I am solely responsible for it. This goes for finances, my children’s education, parenting difficulties, etc.
When I’m overwhelmed by current events and the state of the world:
- “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
- “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:11).
There is so much going on in the world, and the Church, today that causes the faithful to worry and grieve. Both our secular and religious leaders have disappointed and failed us at times. Our religious liberty continues to erode as the dictatorship of relativism becomes more powerful. Especially with regard to the looming presidential election, I often am tempted toward hopelessness. I can keep things in perspective by remembering that the victory of evil is only temporary, and God has already won the final battle.
When God is calling me to do something challenging or scary:
- “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
This is of course Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Thinking about Mary’s unhesitating “yes” reminds me how we are to respond to God’s call. It helps give me the courage to say “yes” as she did.
- “…not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
These are the words that Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday. If I want to be like Jesus, I must make his prayer my own. I must submit myself to God’s perfect will regardless of what I might want.
When I’m feeling sorry for myself and wondering “why me?”:
- “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2)
- “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Scripture tells us that being a follower of Jesus means sacrificing and suffering. As difficult as it is, our response to that suffering should be joy at the prospect of being strengthened and sanctified by it. Recalling these verses helps me to fight against the message of the world that suffering should be resisted and resented.
When I am tempted by doubts:
- “I believe Lord, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
We all struggle with our faith at different points in our lives. Sometimes when I think about all the incredible claims of Catholicism, I become fearful that they aren’t really true. There are also times when I intellectually assent to a doctrine, such as Transubstantiation, but am having a hard time believing in my heart. In these moments, I make the words of the above verse my prayer, which helps to quiet those doubts.
These were just some examples of difficulties I have faced often in my life, and some of the verses that have brought me comfort. But the depth, beauty, and applicability of Scripture goes so far beyond what I can illustrate in a blog post. Writing this post has been a reminder to me to make Scripture reading a bigger part of my life, and I hope it inspires my readers to do the same. After all, St. Jerome tells us that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
Leave a comment with your favorite Scripture verses and the situations in your life to which you like to apply them.