I think some people have this strange idea of God as some sort of divine puppet-master. A while ago I heard someone complaining that they were asking God for help and nothing happened so they were angry at God. But when I asked them what steps they were taking to solve the problems they had, the answer was a resounding “nothing”.
A good parent does not simply do everything for their child. A good parent helps and supports their child, but doesn’t just hand them everything on a platter. People often ask God for help but are unwilling to put in any effort themselves. They expect God to hand them everything on a platter. That is not the way it works. If one falls into a pit, God will help them. His arm is reaching down to pull them out. But they have to reach out and take His hand. He is always there, reaching out to us. He is just waiting for us to accept His help.
We are also thwarted so often by our expectations of what God’s actions are. There is a joke I was once told about a man who was caught in a flood. Two men came by in a boat to rescue him but he waved them away saying “the Lord will save me.” Another boat came along but again the man said “the Lord will save me.” A helicopter arrived but the man once again just said “the Lord will save me.” The man ended up drowning and at the gates of heaven he angrily asked St. Peter “Why didn’t the Lord save me?” St. Peter replied “For crying out loud, He sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more do you want?”
God may not work in the ways we expect Him to, or give us exactly what we are expecting, but He is there. Our heavenly Father does not abandon us. But He also does what it best for us. The Lord is not just going to hand you everything on a platter. He does not carry us: He helps us to walk. He will help you, not do everything for you. We are not passive in the works of God, but active participants and co-operators.
I remember reading this little book on the vocation to religious life that was in the guest room at St. Cecilia’s. Many parts of the book were excellent, others I found I disagreed with. I shan’t name the book, since I don’t want to scandalise anyone. One of the sections of the book asked why some are called to religious life and others are not. The book basically said that those who are called to religious life are preferred by God (I cannot recall the exact wording, nor do I own the book). At the time I passed such a statement off as ridiculous. However, once I accepted that the religious life was not my vocation that statement was part of my grief. The feeling of being rejected by God, of having lost His favour is something I have struggled with.
I have for a long time though constantly in terms of lack: lack of a religious vocation. A few days ago, I started thinking about the realities of a vocation to marriage and I felt an undeniable joy. I found a joy greater than anything I felt when discerning religious life. It’s knowing that I am doing what God wills me to do and that I am serving Him. I will always have a desire for the religious life I think, but that is something I must sacrifice to do the will of God. My desire for the religious life is a good thing, but I am more than willing to sacrifice it for the greater good – the will of God. I have finally recaptured my joy, and I can see that His will is more glorious than I ever imagined.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. In grassy meadows he lets me lie. By tranquil streams he leads me to restore my spirit. He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name. Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me. You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup brims over. Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life. I make my home in the house of the Lord for all time to come. [Psalm 23]