I recently found myself working harder than usual at optimism. I won’t itemize the reasons; we all have our lists. But I came to realize that there were things on my list that needed to be removed — things that had emmeshed me deeper into the world than God intended for me to live.
All the bad news had given me a bad frame of mind. I had become too invested in the “game,” getting angry at the referees and wondering why God was letting players get away with fouls. And it was not just politics. The Church seems not to have been scoring points lately. Oh me, oh my, where was a faithful Catholic to go?
Rather than waiting for God to clean house, it’s up to us to put our own houses in order. Of course we must care about what goes on around us — living the Beatitudes — but huddling with the self-righteous to criticize everyone else undercuts the Gospel message. Disappointment is not supposed to bring us to despair, but to draw us nearer to our God for the strength to continue on ever stronger.
Yes, the culture is leading many astray, but resistance is made possible through holiness. Anger and despair are temptations from the evil one. Jesus taught us a better way: to pick up our cross and follow him, our Savior — the victor who was not afraid of losing, having lost his life for our sake.
I came to see that the heaviness upon me was an unnecessary yoke that could be lifted by reordering my thinking. Here are some thoughts that have helped me to regain a joy and peace anchored in Christ.
1. Everything is happening under God’s watch, so we should be at peace: “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand’” (John 13:7). “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
2. You can hate situations but not people. Pray for the players, regardless of their politics. It’s a way to love our enemies as ourselves as Jesus commanded.
3. Every disappointment is an opportunity for grace. We can offer up even the little irritations for our intentions.
4. Accept reality and then navigate our place in it. God put us here at this time and will guide us when we ask.
5. Worry is not a prayer. Padre Pio said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
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