Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us, He Answers All Our Needs – Does He Really?

The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us, He Answers All Our Needs. Is this just touchy feely religious sentiment? The cancer patient who prays for a cure; is He answering her needs? How about the expecting mother facing a miscarriage? The husband seeing his wife slip away into the mystery of Alzheimers? The martyrs that shed their blood to this day in many corners of this world?

We all suffer. We all die. We all eventually lose those we love. We all mourn and weep in this valley of tears. Is God really answering all our needs? It is easy to say no. It is easy to reject the faith on this premise alone. It is easy to be tragically wrong.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Somehow, some way, these sufferings are supposed to work for good, for our good. Is this just another condescending little head pat to console us when our prayers aren’t answered? Or is it the case that suffering happens and God tries somehow to make it up to us? Again, no. Such a promise cannot be so easily dismissed.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.
Collossions 1:24

So the good that our sufferings work for isn’t just some consolation prize from God, but it is something essential. Christ’s afflictions were and Sources necessary for the salvation of all of us. Since Christ is God, He cannot of course be imperfect, so the only thing missing from His afflictions must be something that He requires as our contribution, and that would be our suffering. If our suffering makes up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, then both our and His suffering must be working toward the same goal – salvation.

So our suffering is not only turned into good by God, it is in fact necessary. But why? This is not some arbitrary rule. In fact, it derives logically from the nature of our existence.

God created man not as an animal, and not as an automaton. He gave us free will. Why? Because He wanted to create a creature whom He could love and who could freely love him back. Without free will, there is no love, only coerced action.

But with free will comes the ability to say no, the ability to reject God. With free will also comes a selfishness, a base desire to guarantee my own self-preservation, to look out for my interests above those of others. To truly love someone – in a total and pure way – you have to be willing and able to put the other’s needs over your own. In perfect love, this self-sacrifice extends even unto death. I would die for my wife and my children.

So to love God perfectly, I must be willing and able to sacrifice my life for God. How many of us are sure we could do that? Adam failed at the task miserably, and we are all still paying for his failure.

The reason why our suffering – joined to that of Christ – is essential to our salvation is because it helps us to learn how to offer our lives up for God, how to be willing and able to sacrifice our very existence for Him. Once we have learned that, we have learned to love God perfectly. And once we can love God perfectly, we can become the creatures He originally intended us to be.

So yes, God does answer all our needs. And one of our needs is to suffer. We don’t need to be afraid of it.

Sharing 9-11 With Our Children

Today we toured the U.S.S. Yorktown with our kids, as a way to commemorate 9-11. On our way, we had a chance to not only teach them about the attack, but also to tell them about what we were doing at the time, and how it affected us.
It occurred to me that, especially for our younger kids, 9-11 is history, no less so than World War II is history to me. What I was doing, was passing down oral history to my children.
Oral history is, I think, important for our children. Knowing where there parents and grandparents were during a particular event gives them a context they can’t get at school. It personalizes history and makes it real. The dividing line between entertainment and reality is getting more and more blurred (see, for instance, “Apollo 18”), so anything that can make that line more clear must be valuable.
We have experienced a wealth of history that we can and should share with our kids. I have seen the end of the cold war, the rise and fall of the space shuttle program, the Iranian hostage crisis, the dawn of the PC age and the internet, Chernobyl, Katrina, and so many other events. How many have I shared with my kids?
9-11 is clearly the “where were you when” event of our generatio

n, but it is not the only bit of history we have been a part of to share with our kids.

Lessons in Spiritual Warfare from a Broken Garage Door

I spent time recently repairing my garage door. On Saturday, one of the pulley cables snapped. Simple, I thought. I purchased a new cable and made the repair. The door worked for about a day and then jammed. A hinge had broken. I repaired the hinge, but still no go. The door would not close all the way. I finally determined that a pulley had lost a bearing and would not turn.

Of course, this was not some grand coincidence or case of really bad luck. The cable, hinge, and pulley were all related. One of them, probably the pulley, had begun to fail first. This put additional stress on the other parts. The cable turned out to be the first to fail completely. The other parts quickly followed suit. In engineering, we call this a cascading failure. It is a feature of any interconnected system.

Our spiritual lives can be like that. When we neglect part of our spiritual life – for instance when we sin – we can quickly find the rest of our life falling apart in short order, and soon we wonder why we feel so empty inside. One sin predisposes us to another and then another, until sinful behavior has become a habit and we start justifying ourselves, saying that such-and-such a sin really isn’t so bad. Sin becomes a part of every aspect of our life.

Now that my garage door is working again, I notice that it is remarkably quiet. I hadn’t even realized it was getting noisy. The pulley must have been getting a little noisier every day, the noise increasing so slightly that, like the frog in the boiling water, I was oblivious to the relentless creeping change.

Again, sin is like that. It can start with such seeming innocence that we barely realize we are sinning. It might start out as too much TV watching. Then watching shows that are morally questionable, that titillate and excite. Then turning to programs not just questionable but objectionable. This is how men get sucked into pornography, bit by bit. When we open the door to sin, it can grow throughout our lives without our even realizing it. And then it comes, cascading failure.

The sin has permeated us. We drift away from our loved ones. We drift away from the faith. Our lives become chaotic. We obsess about appearance, status, money, possessions. Eventually, we don’t even know who God is.

How do we prevent this? When designing a complex system, we first design to avoid cascading failures. We choose parts less likely to fail. We design in backups. We minimize dependencies between parts. And we do preventive maintenance, to catch small failures before they have a chance to cascade. This is why the mechanic, when he changes the oil in your car, always checks the air filter.

In our spiritual life we do the same thing. We design our life to avoid the failures. We call this avoiding the near occasion of sin. In our family, we don’t subscribe to cable TV. In business I have a personal rule not to have lunch or even coffee alone with a woman, no matter how innocent.

We also do preventive maintenance. We pray the morning offering and the rosary. We do a daily examination of conscience. We read the scriptures and frequent the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.

In short, we can prevent the kind of breakdown suffered by my garage door, but it takes diligence and planning.