“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”
So closes the Divine Mercy chaplet, which is a form of recited prayer my mother taught me. The last line struck me in particular—“Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.” Anyone who prays the Our Father –or, indeed, pays attention in church—is rather well-versed in the idea of God’s will and letting it reign in our lives, but for me, this doctrine sometimes lapses into trope, easy to espouse but frustratingly difficult to implement.
What does God’s will mean? And what does it mean to come to him in our difficult moments?
I firmly believe it does not mean God will “solve our problems” in the way we want Him to. In fact, sometimes He rather obligingly makes them worse. But I have come to realize that a relationship with God means not changing the circumstances around you, but changing you. With God, the dust clouding my vision is cleared; with God, the rust and jadedness crusted on my heart falls away.
Coming to God is something my parish priest has often talked to me about, both in homilies and in our choir recollection. The idea of God as a lover seems rather uncomfortable, perhaps even heretic, but isn’t it God who first and foremost showed us the way of love? Isn’t it God to whom we must aspire in our human relationships of love? And when we bring our human ideas of love to God rather than the other way round, things get a little revelatory. “If your boyfriend didn’t like you saying the word ‘cucumber’, wouldn’t you think of him every time you said it? Wouldn’t you eventually stop saying it, because you don’t want to hurt his feelings?” my priest asked. In the same way, if God is the way, the truth, and the life, if God is our first starting point in love, shouldn’t we think of Him every time we sin? Every time we get tempted?
We don’t think twice about rushing to be with the person we love. We shouldn’t think twice about rushing to be with God, to spend time with Him.
But spending time with Him doesn’t have to mean spending the whole day closeted in fervent prayer. I have come to realize that you can live your life as a prayer, too. You can glorify the Lord with your life, and you can do this by clearing your heart, so that through you, others see Him (thank you, C. S. Lewis, for your words which I have appropriated and paraphrased).
I once read an enlightening article about what God gives when He takes away. It cohered in the most magical way with our topic of discussion during choir recollection: amongst which, the idea that loss reveals what we rely on, and prayer reveals that we should rely on God. It is a lesson I am still learning every single day, how to bring my daily gifts to God, and so lose nothing when He takes some away.
“Let us be confident in approaching the throne of grace,” writes St. Paul (or Barnabas; the author is disputed) in his letter to the Hebrews (at 4:16). (Please try to believe me when I say I’m not being self-indulgent in including that quotation.) Love is about being unafraid to come to each other with your sins, forgiving, working through them, and working them away. So should our love with God. After all, it was He –through Jesus—who came as a man to experience the temptation of men, who could have said no to God’s will but did it anyway—who demonstrated most strongly the power of yes. So did His human mother—Mother Mary, who at many points in her life (not just at the conception of Jesus—take, for example, when Jesus got lost at the temple; or more obviously, when Jesus died on the cross) was asked to accept God’s hand in her life, and acceded with sheer faith.
It is normal to feel unsure about doing God’s will. Is my human choice dictated by God? Is this the hand of God in my life?
Sometimes, we are called to say yes without asking; more often, when we come to God as His children with our many questions about how and what and why, we are asked to spend time with Him in order to understand. As we spend more time with Him, His peace fills our heart. Everything in His time; everything, in His way.
God is Love; God is Mercy. Let us be unafraid, then, to come to the one who was there first, who went before us and who understands our human hearts wholly and lovingly. Let us be unafraid to love God, to love others, and to love ourselves.