Today's guest post comes from Bradley - a graduate of George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis & Resolution, who currently works for the government and volunteers in his community. Bradley is also a proud member of St. Timothy & St. Athanasius church in Arlington, VA who has guest posted before. You can follow him on Facebook as well. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
"To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us...Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace... Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” Thomas Merton
I am often amazed by the ways God makes Himself known to us. We can reflect in scripture, in the history of the Church, and in our own lives and see the heaven's proclaiming the Glory of God and rejoice that Israelite children were taught to recite the Torah.
We remember the Centurion that amazed Christ with his matter of fact faith, align ourselves with the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and hear His voice echoed in the wisdom and service of our community. We can wonder at the power in Christ Himself assuring us that, even if we and the whole rest of the world are silent, stones would become instruments in proclaiming the Truth He would have us know (Luke 19:40).
So when we perceive God's silence or absence, what does any of that matter?
Is it not even more deafening--more traumatic even--to think God once worked mightily and spoke clearly but has withdrawn now? It’s one thing to study Esther or Job, two individuals who could have been forgiven for wondering where the sea parting, dead raising God was; it is another thing to actually live wondering, "where are You?"
In the opening quote Catholic Monk Thomas Merton says, "every moment of existence is a grace." When I am in the depths of my own frustration, rather than seeming miraculous, this can seem like nothing more than nice words; something that is easy for a monk or god, far away from the troubles of the world, to say.
When I consider the booming human trafficking industry, a Godly couple experiencing a miscarriage, fatherless families, crippling depression and greed, and heroin epidemics, it is hard to think of grace in every moment. Too often I mistake our lack of seeing God, with His absence. I mistake our lack of hearing Him, with His silence. I mistake the trust He puts in us to be stewards of a broken world with apathy, callousness, or cruelty.
We are reminded by St. Peter of a mystery that amazes even angels:
"Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things." (1 Peter 1:10-12)
We do not live outside of time, but we serve a God that does. We are called to know a God that, if He has done something once, has done it forever, for you.
He parted the seas for you. He gave words to prophets to speak millennia ago for you. He provided living water to the Samaritan woman for you, today, right now. He reminds me that he separated light from darkness and conquered death every morning I am blessed to witness the sun rise.
Even when I can't feel His presence at particular moment, I can remember the times He felt closest and have to believe that this remembrance is, too, a gift. The prayers the Saints prayed for the Church cover us now, and the gifts God give us echo even when He seems distant, so is God ever truly gone?
Again, when the realities of the world come in waves, this is hard. But when we are told that the prophets were serving us, when we can look back and see God's "invisible hand," when Christ Himself assures us the He is with us always, we have the simple choice to disbelieve, or to trust. God is not tricking us saying this truth will always be easy or effortless. He does not love us less when we ask where He is, but He does promise us that when we trust Him we will find peace, we will find joy, and we will find Him and may even see the prayers of our friends, the verses we memorized with our mother as children, and the One who can not abandon us, were there with us, all along.
How have you dealt with feeling like God was absent in your life? Are there anytime where, with the benefit of hindsight, you can look back and see how God never left you?