Q: Father John, I am struggling with discouragement regarding social and economic conditions – what can I do?
A: The worldwide economic downturn and the recent (and, most likely, future) blows to the pro-life cause can tempt us to discouragement. It is natural and human to feel discouragement, confusion, weariness, and frustration in the face of challenging circumstances. But from a spiritual perspective, what really matters is how we respond, at the level of our will and our faith, to those feelings.
Instead of letting difficult circumstances crowd out our confidence in God (which is what the devil wants us to do), we should ask God to help us use them as a springboard for renewing our confidence in him. It is hard to exercise our faith, hope, and love for God in times of prosperity and plenty. When the Lord allows us to share his cross, we can better let go of our false securities (“blessed are the poor in spirit”) and grip more firmly the one sure foundation of our lives who is Christ himself, as given to us moment-by-moment through his Church.
I am reminded of the Gospel passage where Jesus is asleep in the boat when a storm suddenly rises (cf. Mark chapter 4). The storm is so bad that the Apostles think the boat will sink. Jesus keeps on sleeping… In the midst of storms, Jesus is with us, inviting us to learn to love him more by trusting him more. The pain that the storms cause can be a purifying pain, if we use it as a springboard for prayer.
Below is a prayer I recently wrote that tries to capture these sentiments. Maybe you will find it helpful for your own vocal or mental prayer.
Prayer to the Good Shepherd
Lord Jesus, You calmed the storm on the
Sea of Galilee, and filled the Apostles with wonder. You raised Lazarus from the dead, and bolstered Martha’s straining faith.
You mended Peter’s broken heart, and made him the rock of your Church. And yet, You allowed the storm to rise; You permitted Lazarus to die; You let Peter go astray.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Is the lesson you always long to teach us, Because they know in whom they have put their trust, And they live no longer for themselves, But through you, with you, and in you, The Good Shepherd of their hearts.
Lord of life and history, Our storms obey your word; Our dying roots us more deeply in you; Our sorrows protect us from clinging to false gods and thinking that our mission is our own. You are the vine, and we are the branches; Without you, we can do nothing.
But all things are possible, and all things secure the good, For those who seek your Kingdom first. Teach us, Lord Jesus, now and always, To live only for your love, and only from your love. Amen.
Yours in Christ, Father John Bartunek