Today’s passages reflect on being thankful for the trials and temptations we endure. The concept of being grateful for the bad things that happen to us and the struggles we deal with is a bizarre concept, I know. God doesn’t tempt us. He doesn’t will our pain or the pain others inflict upon us. Instead, he allows these things to happen to those he loves the most. Jesus, after all, was tempted in the desert for 40 days. We shouldn’t seek out temptation, but instead we should ask God for his protection.
Two chapters in Scott Hahn’s Understanding Our Father focus on the part of the Our Father that says “Lead us not into temptation.” The passage from 1st Corinthians is what Hahn calls Saint Paul’s four steps that explain “how temptation works to a Christian advantage.” It starts with acknowledging our humility and understanding that we can endure the temptations we face. God will help us, even when Satan attacks, and “He is always willing to share His own omnipotence, so that we can endure even the most severe trials without sinning.
” Most importantly, we grow in strength against temptation through the sacrament of the Eucharist."
Through the trials we endure in this desert period, God refines us and we learn how strong we actually are through Christ.
But there’s another kind of trial we experience in the desert: spiritual dryness. How many of us suffer from times when we feel stuck in a rut? When we don’t feel like praying? Even when we don’t feel like it, our times of spiritual dryness are when we need gratitude and prayer the most. It isn’t easy, obviously. One of my favorite books for tackling this issue (along with any other emotional issues in my life) is God, I Have Issues: 50 Ways to Pray No Matter How You Feel by Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, SJ. In the section devoted to spiritual dryness, he quotes St. Ignatius’s advice: when you don’t feel God’s presence, pray for the desire for it. If you can’t do that, then pray for the desire for the desire. (Basically “I want to want you!”)
One amazing biography that I read recently is Everything is Grace: The Life and Way of Therese of Lisieux by Joseph F. Schmidt. In spite of what we may think of St. Therese of Lisieux, she struggled with spiritual dryness like the rest of us. However, she took the problem of her spiritual dryness and turned it into an opportunity for gratitude:
“She imagined her aridity as a result of Jesus’ sleeping, wearied with having always to take the initiative with souls, as well as respond to their requests. In her case she would respect His repose and not make any demands. She would wait. She would simply let Jesus sleep, confident that He would ‘more quickly grow tired of making me wait than I shall grow tired of waiting for Him.'”
My friend Susi, who recommended the biography to me, said:
“Reading just that first sentence, totally changed my attitude! I was going through a rough time and starting to get quite overwhelmed. For a split second, I still didn’t want Jesus sleeping in my boat, and then the most beautiful image came to mind. Him resting His Head on my lap, as He sleeps peacefully, and me gently singing to Him, running my fingers through His Hair, etc as others have done to me. It brought me such incredible peace. And almost made me want Him to keep sleeping! I even took the time to sing and play for Him.”
It’s through gratitude that you learn how to dance in the desert. In honor of St. Therese, today’s featured song is Matt Maher’s “Everything is Grace,” which was inspired by the Little Flower.
1.Do you think it’s harder for you to handle spiritual trials or spiritual dryness? What are some ways that you think you can handle them?
2.Were there times that you didn’t want to be near God, but still wanted “the desire for the desire?” How did you find your way back to Him?
3.Have your perspectives on the Our Father and St. Therese changed? If so, how?