Lost? Disillusioned? You’re in the right place
August 31, 2023
By Jenna McDonald
One of the greatest illusions is that greater freedom will arrive once this or that happens. Once we are older or once we have more time or once we move or have more money, then we will know peace.
There is no greater lie than the promise of freedom from anything outside of Christ.
We have all felt that familiar restless feeling. In their popular Litany of Trust prayer, the Sisters of Life urge us to pray that the Lord deliver us from “restless self-seeking in the present moment.” Perhaps the greatest spiritual battle we fight is the one surrounding the suggestion that salvation – or relief even – is outside of our current situation. It is tempting to take matters into our own hands when we feel beaten down by the monotony of routine. Or to distract ourselves from connection with the Lord and his love through prayer and sacrifice.
Maybe marriage and child-rearing is not as magical as Instagram made it look. The work is draining. Getting older is also draining. Perhaps we have less room and energy for the expansiveness we had hoped to discover post-retirement. Perhaps every corner of life requires effort.
How we long to be free of our burdens and really find some rest on some beach somewhere. We might even get to read a single book cover to cover. A pocket of time without responsibility or obligation; what would that be like? And yet, our freedom is found wrapped inside the paradox of obedience. Obedience to the duty of the moment that calls to us looking quite unappealing and frumpy, most days. At one point in his papacy, John Paul II was asked by a journalist about what he likes to do in his “free time.” To which he replied: “all of my time is free.”
If we are living in perfect obedience to the will of God within each moment, we will feel that all of our time is free. If we work and carry out acts of charity when we are supposed to be working and we play and rest when we have set out to play and rest, we will be given our daily bread. Exactly what we need to persevere in faith, hope, and love.
At some point in all of our lives we come to a crossroads where we have to square off with disappointment and disillusionment. Sometimes this is on a small scale like not getting a job we really wanted or not having a bid on our dream home accepted. Other times, it can be much more existential in nature; having a loved one betray our trust through infidelity or withdrawal, or having a child make painful life decisions. Or perhaps we grapple with our own unbelief or hopelessness deep in our hearts.
If we come to a place where we feel like we have nothing to offer or we do not know where we can turn, this is exactly the place where we need to be. Up to a certain point in our lives, our faith doesn’t cost us anything. When it starts to feel like faith is expensive, crippling even, you’re in the right place and in good company. At some point in our life, staying the course will look unglamourous at best. Some might say repulsive and incomprehensible (but let them die with dignity!) The long haul in marriage will offer many bumps and opportunities for healing and soul-searching (but you deserve better, they say!).
The world tells you in many different ways and tongues that you deserve love, peace, joy, etc., but without Christ all of these things are misnomers for comfort. We are made for more than comfort. We are made for adventure, and sacrificial, self-forgetting love is the ultimate adventure. Or, as Pope Benedict XVI writes, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
The urge to flee from pain is pure instinct, which is why Christianity is supernatural and will never be overcome by evil falsely marketed as freedom. Christ walked straight into discomfort without flinching and anyone who follows after him should expect to follow in his steps.
He was cheeky about it in the best possible way when he said, “no one takes my life from me … I lay it down freely.” This could be the mantra of the Christian. I’m here because I put the will of God above my own comfort, above being liked and accepted. I put the will of God above the esteem of even my children. I put the will of God above my own life. I will not stop saying what is true nor will I stop adhering to God’s laws. I will aim to perfectly fulfill the will of my Father.