It could happen that sometimes you feel tepid or lukewarm in your relationship with God, praying becomes tiresome and repetitive, and it may seem that God has forgotten about you. You get lazy, distracted by other interests; you say a prayer here and there, between work and taking care of your family. You don’t feel the same excitement as you once did, when maybe you used to stay hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament with so much joy in your heart.
What about now? Where is the enthusiasm?
You ask yourself: “Is this bad? Should I be scared? What can I do?
The first step, in my opinion, is to give a name to what is happening, without the fear of being true and honest with yourself, because Jesus reassures us by saying “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).
To ”give a name” in the biblical culture, assigns the ability to conquer, to rule, that “ability” of one who, as a superior, exercises accountability and responsibility. In the command to “give a name” God delegates to human persons a great responsibility (for example, in the disciplines of Apologetics and Christian philosophy). He could do it himself, but God delegates the ability to “give it a name” to us.
Therefore, stop to see which thoughts, sentiments and feelings are moving within you. God with his grace gives you the ability to do it. If you give one or more names to whatever you are experiencing, this awareness takes away the fear of the unknown and allows you to take charge of your life. You could for example, tell yourself “I don’t feel like praying, or being with God, or putting in effort towards a life in the Spirit; I feel tired, depressed and spent; I don’t think I’m going to be able to move forward etc.” Give a name to your hardship and don’t dismiss it by thinking “…it is just a phase…it will go away…” God himself wishes that you give a name to your struggle.
As a matter of fact, everything that is unknown or obscure is scary and keeps you in bondage, from truly being free. But God is light (Jn 1,5), and wants to help you and create light inside you. Ask Him for this light! If it’s easier, write down on a piece of paper everything that you are going through and bring it in front of Jesus, asking Him to help you give a name to your struggles.
Once you give it a name, you are called to responsibility.
Adam was called to care for the creation and for the creatures that he named, which also implied taking care of himself. Then ask yourself: “ How can I take care of what I am experiencing?”
A fundamental element that could help you, is to have a spiritual director or someone who can help guide you spiritually, that will lead you step by step with the grace of the Lord, to help you to understand what moves within you and to find the best way to care of it.
Here is a temptation that could arise in this period of desolation: that of closing in on yourself, thinking no one can understand you; that you will be too ashamed of your sins to even say them in confession, especially if in this state of feeling tired and exhausted, tending to always commit the same sins. This is humiliating and will discourage you.
The enemy himself will “strongly encourage” you to stay away from confession saying: “It’s not going to fix anything anyways…”
It is good then to remember that God never gets tired of us, He’s not board of us and of our sins, He will never say “ Are you still making these mistakes?! You will never change!”
This reprimanding voice will never come from God, but from the enemy that wants to discourage you and put off going to confession: “I will do it later…”
This procrastinating, although sometimes motivated by good reasons (“I have to study, church is far away, it’s too cold outside today…”), in reality it makes you more spiritually tired. It deprives you of the Grace of forgiveness that would get you out of this state and leaves you in a restless and stagnant phase.
In this liturgical time of Lent it could be a good resolution to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often, even confessing to have had thoughts of being tired and unmotivated. This will allow you to receive the love that God gives you to pick yourself up again, regain your strength and move forward with faith.
I feel the urge to tell everyone in our moments of desolation: Don’t ever get discouraged!
I would like to quote the venerable Bruno Lanteri, founder of the Oblate of the Virgin Mary, that I think so well expresses what I would like to say:
“To indulge in melancholy and sadness, to get discouraged is to indulge the spirit of the tempter; for the spirit of God brings us confidence, calm and peace. Let us not be surprised when we find ourselves in a drought, it is human, we will win over it with patience and perseverance…. When temptation comes to our heart, be careful not to show strong external signs of rejection. An act of love of God, or contempt for the temptation suffices…let us also despise the doubt that we have not been diligent in driving them away. Even if we have been negligent or lacking, an act of God’s love will remedy everything without so much scrutiny or disturbance.” — Venerable Bruno Lanteri
Renounce even the doubt of not having fought enough against temptation in order to place yourself again in God’s hands. How many times we sit and think about how much we did or didn’t do, and we close ourselves up, in our sense of guilt, stuck in our idea of perfection that is, not sorrow for the sins committed but, rather, anger and sadness for not having behaved as we would have liked. The perfect image we had of ourselves has collapsed and we can’t stand it.
The sense of shame crushes us and makes us turn in circles with our thoughts, to try to remedy, in vain, our shortcomings that have already passed. The sense of guilt for sin, on the other hand, opens us to an “Other”, to a relationship with God, to God’s love that is always ready to heal our wounds. It puts us outside our ego and opens us to receive forgiveness.
When we examine our conscience, let’s ask ourselves if we are truly sorry for not having responded to God’s love, or if we are just angry at ourselves for not being able to follow our idea of perfection that is unattainable.
I want to give you a tangible example: Imagine I am with a few colleagues that are talking badly about one that is not present and I join in, contributing with my words to shine a negative light on my colleague. What will I do when I realize what I did was wrong?
I can choose between 2 different reactions:
- Continuing to torment myself by asking how I could have stooped so low: “Especially I who go to Church, I who pray every day, I should be an example for my colleagues, I should always give good advice to others… I, I, I… ME, ME, ME …
- Humbly realizing and acknowledging that I was tempted and fell, and ask God for forgiveness because I hurt one of His children; I can pray for that person and confess my sin, having faith in God’s mercy which covers all and heals everything.
What will you choose?
Suggested Concrete Resolution for this month:
In the evening I will do an examination of conscience, asking God to help me give a name to the struggles that I had, and handing them over to his Mercy, without getting lost in unnecessary feelings of guilt. If you need guidance in this, check out Sr. Janel’s post on the Examen Prayer.
This month’s meditation is written by Sr. Simona Panico, AVI