Distress and Delight21 September 2022
How is it that you want to be friends with someone, but yet you don’t make any effort to get in touch with them, particularly when there’s no reluctance on their part?
How is it that you want to feel God’s joy within you, to feel the sweetness of his presence, but yet you don’t pray?
How is it that you say you love God, but yet you don’t observe his commandments?
How is it that you say to somebody who’s wronged you that you forgive them, but yet you continue to be cold and indifferent towards them.
How is it that that you ask somebody to forgive you for wounding them, doing them wrong, behaving badly towards them but yet you don’t change, and show it by your actions?
How is it that you want one thing but yet you do another?
It happens. All the above things and much else besides can happen in our daily and spiritual life (if we can make that distinction…). Because we’re descendants of the first Adam in our fall and dysfunctionality. Saint Paul expressed this state in his epistle to the Romans when he said: ‘What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?’ (Romans 7, 24).
Just as we’ve been influenced negatively by our forefather, because we’re people, so we can also be influenced positively by the new Adam, Christ, since we’ve been baptized and are members of the Church, which is his body.
This is why Saint Paul also says: ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2, 20). Before this, however, he had had struggles with his will and admitted: ‘I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing’ (Romans 7, 18-19).
It’s encouraging to know that others- indeed, great saints- have struggled as we do. It takes away our frustration to know that we’re not alone in this dire struggle. But the effort to go beyond, to defeat our self which distresses us with its passions, is justified by the freedom and ‘completed joy’ (1 John 1, 4) which await us.
We must understand, however, that the result belongs to God’s grace. Ours is the will and effort. The struggle is no longer exhausting nor without joy. Once you start to want to change and to become a ‘little Christ’, living his life, then joy and freedom begin to burgeon tangibly within you. Then this sweetness fills your existence and becomes an incentive for further progress.
Our life isn’t just our failures, our lapses, our dysfunctionality. It’s also what gives us beauty, completeness, meaning and delight: repentance, forgiveness, goodness and self-sacrifice, humility and openness of heart. All the things that Christ bestows on those who want to live his life and who strive to do so.