Dear fellow pilgrims,
What better describes your spiritual life: a “gloomy darkness” or a “festal gathering”?
I have to admit, my default spirituality is “gloomy darkness”. But a holy “gloomy darkness,” like Lent. (Or at least that’s what I tell myself.) I love Lent, it’s Easter that is harder for me to get into. Who is with me??? Why is it hard for us Lent-lovers to truly celebrate and embrace joy while enduring and dealing with suffering is easier? The first reading today reminds us that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection has established a new covenant between humans and God characterized by joy, not trembling and fear.
A huge thing I’m learning, though, is this part of me isn’t really operating out of a deeper understanding of suffering at all if it’s easier for me to accept suffering rather than joy. As God has been healing this strange tendency of mine, I’m discovering joy in new ways while I am also letting go of faulty ways I have understood the role of suffering and fear in my life.
In short, I have come to understand that one of the reasons why it is hard for me to truly, deeply, and consciously experience joy in my life is because I have a hard time believing God gives good things to us freely, without a hidden agenda. All too often, my subconscious response to fun events or moments of potential joy or happiness in life is resisting feeling it deeply in the moment. Why? Well, just in case God wants to take whatever is giving me joy away in the future. In short, I’m trying to cut expected future losses by disengaging from potentially joy-filled moments in the present.
But yeah… that’s not how God works. Those subconscious beliefs do not reflect who God really is, nor do they reflect who I really am to God. I still have a ways to go in truly believing in the relationship Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection made possible with all of my being, even to the depths of my subconscious.
What is the truth? I am a daughter of God and God is my Father who delights in giving me good things because He delights in my delight. God is not pleased when I am afraid of Him and back away from His good gifts. When I encounter suffering, God does not relish the fact that I am suffering. He only allows it so that a greater good might come about.
God’s inheritance for all of us is goodness, is the Resurrection, is eternal bliss in Heaven, and He wants us to live in that joy as much as we can on earth, not only for our good but for attracting others to claim that same inheritance.
The devil wants to suppress our joy, because “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength”! I know God has given me a large heart, and I feel things very deeply and profoundly, and when I am confident in the Lord, I am joyful. When I am joyful, or actively trust in His promise and inheritance of joy amidst suffering, I am unstoppable. And the devil doesn’t want that. He wants us to keep our beliefs about how we can earn good things and also deserve every bad thing that comes our way.
But this balance of joy and pain in our lives is not up to us! All we encounter in life is allowed by God in order to cultivate within us a deeper understanding of Heaven, of God’s ultimate desire for our hearts, of joy and peace and unity with Him.
Brothers and sisters, I pray the Holy Spirit reveals to each one of you how your own faulty understandings of God and yourself hinder experiencing His joy in the present. I pray that we would live our lives out of an unshakeable belief in the goodness of our inheritance as daughters and sons of God, an identity and gift won for us by Jesus that we can neither earn nor lose on our own merits.