My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
The Book of Sirach 2:1-11
I’m a melancholy person. I look around at the world and feel an oppressive weight—the weight of the sin and suffering that encompass us. It’s so big, and I’m so small.
“You can do nothing here,” he said. “Let us go.”
“I tell you, you can do nothing. Have you not troubles enough of your own? I tell you there are thousands such in Johannesburg. And were your back as broad as heaven, and your purse full of gold, and did your compassion reach from here to hell itself, there is nothing you can do.”—Cry, the Beloved Country
That’s how I feel: there is nothing I can do. Even on the smaller scale of my family, I break with sorrow over my children’s choices—choices that I can’t change or make right. My helpless grief is a heavy cross.
“Perceptive people like you wound more easily than others. But if we’re going to work on God’s side, we have to decide to open our hearts to the griefs and pain all around us. It’s not an easy decision. A dangerous one too. And a tiny narrow door to enter into a whole new world. But in that world a great experience waits for us: meeting the One who’s entered there before us. He suffers more than any of us could because His is the deepest emotion and the highest perception.”–Christy
I haven’t mastered the art of transcending my woundedness. I cry with the pain of knowing that these things are, and that I can only watch—an impotent bystander. I want to escape the world, to end the pain of being witness to things I can’t bear to see.
“You see, Christy, evil is real—and powerful. It has to be fought, not explained away, not fled. And God is against evil all the way. So each of us has to decide where we stand, how we’re going to live our lives. […] We can compromise with it, keep quiet about it and say it’s none of our business. Or we can work on God’s side, listen for His orders on strategy against the evil, no matter how horrible it is, and know that He can transform it.”—Christy
I want, in my heart, and also in my pride, to do things that make a difference. But I’m not one of those people. I am the way God made me—small and weak. I am unable to shoulder the burden of much, and I do little except pray. It seems a feeble offering.
“What is this want of power about?[…] What then is to be done? What you can do, and for which you will never lack power. This is to form a simple desire of good, for God sees all the actions you would wish to perform in this sincere disposition to act rightly. Cease then to distress yourself and to lament over your weakness. Rather say, ‘Fiat, fiat.’ This will be of infinitely more value than anything that you could say or do according to your own ideas, to please yourself.”—Abandonment to Divine Providence
Self-knowledge is painful. Humility isn’t about being lowly; it’s about letting go of my notions of how things should be—in my family, and in the world—and in myself. It’s acknowledging that not only am I helpless, but that this is how God intends me to be—dependent. All my strength, all I do, must come from him alone. Only when I’m broken can I learn this.
“It was not that she was willing to compromise with wrongdoing or poverty or ignorance just that she was a long step ahead of wasting emotional energy on fretting. […] She was—that was all. And her stance toward life seemed to say: God is—and that is enough. But why was it enough? That was what I had to find out. Even supposing one had proof of the existence of God, how could the fact of God suffice when all around us were conditions crying to be righted? How could Miss Alice be so sure that He had the world in His hand?”– Christy
When I am feeling overcome by all that’s wrong, and by my own self-pity for what I cannot achieve, I have only to do one thing: look to Jesus.
“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.” —The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
There is an old story of St. John Vianney, in which he encounters a peasant, sitting in the church before the tabernacle. The curé asked what the man what he was doing, and he replied, “I look at him; he looks at me.” That’s what I am trying to do now: look at him. If I can do that, if I can look into his eyes and think only of him, if I can let go of all the things that I can’t make right, then for that moment I can breathe, I can live.
“What do you do when strength is called for and you have no strength? You evoke a power beyond your own and use stamina you did not know you had. You open your eyes in the morning grateful that you can see the sunlight of yet another day. You draw yourself to the edge of the bed and then put one foot in front of the other and keep going. You weep with those who gently close the eyes of the dead, and somehow, from the salt of your tears, comes endurance for them and for you. You pour out that resurgence to minister to the living.”—Christy
I am not in charge; God is. If I have no strength, it is because I have tried to do things in my own power, things that he hasn’t asked me to take on. I have to lay the burdens which trouble me at his feet, and look deeply into the eyes of Him who loved me unto death.
“And so,” continued the Witch, “That human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.” [….]
“Edmund was on the other side of Aslan, looking all the time at Aslan’s face. He felt a choking feeling and wondered if he ought to say something; but a moment later he felt that he was not expected to do anything except to wait, and do what he was told.”—The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Is 40:30