If I said Lent this year was easy, I’d be lying. Lent this year has been ridiculously difficult. Despair, acedia, and doubt have all flooded my Lenten journey. I won’t go into the detail of what exactly my plight has been, but rather, where it’s brought me and what I hope the next 27 days will be like.
I found that my despair had been the worst I’ve ever experienced because it was the hardest I ever cried out to God for refuge. I had felt so close to Jesus in the time around Ash Wednesday, as if I were in His embrace. But less than two weeks later, I felt separated and it was agonizing.
Then when I somehow survived that agony, the small, subtle voice of apathy crept into the back of my mind. “You can skip your prayers tonight. It won’t hurt. You’ve done so well. One time isn’t bad. I’m so tired. I just want to sleep. I can catch up tomorrow when I’m rested.”
And worse, the even smaller, most malicious voice said, “After all, what does it matter?”
I’m embarrassed to say that I settled into that for a while. It was a struggle, but a half-hearted one. The feelings persisted, but I did go through the motions. I might not have been entirely as dedicated as I could have been though.
If you’re feeling the same way, I wish I had an instant cure-all for you. I can say for certain though, that your faith will be so much stronger when you’re through it than when you started for one simple reason: you endured.
For me endurance wasn’t an option – it was a necessity. Luckily, my wake-up call came in the form of a tweet from the lovely Jackie Francois, retweeted by Mark Hart:
@LT_TheBiblegeek: Wow. Watch this! RT @JackieFrancois
#stopkony2012 and RT http://vimeo.com/m/37119711
That video. Wow. Thirty minutes of slapped-in-the-face perspective. And then I remembered the most recent time I heard God’s voice. I was praying in adoration and reflecting on Matthew 22:37-39. By heart, I recited “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” But in a voice that gave me goosebumps, the Lord finished in my mind: “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Both the first time and when I watched the Kony video, I realized that I hadn’t been loving my neighbor as much as I could have. And suddenly all at once, I had the direction I had been begging God for.
Now, I’m not saying that social justice is what is going to help you “feel better” about your faith. The Lord calls every person to his own path. But being called twice now has made my calling feel more certain. With that feeling of purpose, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
If you’re feeling despair, please endure. Maybe the Kony video will be your wake up call, too or maybe the Lord is calling you to a totally different adventure. But first and most importantly, you must be willing to listen.
The first step is the sacrament of Reconciliation. You might not feel as if you need to, but that’s the acedia talking, which in itself is a deadly sin. From there, envelop yourself in the Eucharist. It is True Food.
I think the reason we get so beaten down by these challenging times is because of how close we are to the Truth. We know His Love and it is impossible for us to live without it. The closer we get to God, the more apart of Him we become, and then the worse we feel without Him. Thankfully, He is still with us in these times, calling us to be even closer.