This is based on an essay that appears in my book, Lessons Along the Journey. I thought it might be good to post it here.
Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6).
Smoke swirled through the streets of Jerusalem. A woman shrieked as the Babylonian soldier pulled the blood-soaked sword from a man’s belly, and then thrust it into hers. Soldiers ripped babies from their mothers’ arms and flung them against stone walls. Devastation swallowed Jerusalem as Nebuchadnezzar’s army ravaged the city.
With grief clutching his throat, Jeremiah wrote what some might call lunacy: “The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, His mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Anyone looking over Jeremiah's shoulder as he wrote would have screamed, “Are you mad? Look around you, Jeremiah! Blood covers our streets. Children lie dead with their parents, and you talk about God’s mercies?”
It would have been a reasonable accusation.
But was the Jeremiah mad, or did he have something that I – and perhaps you – need?
Horatio Spafford could answer that question. His faith in God persevered despite the tragedies that ripped into his soul. Early in 1871, he lost his only son to illness. Four months later, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed his business. Two years later, his wife, and daughters booked passage on a ship bound for England. During the voyage, the vessel collided with another ship and sank. Spafford’s daughters were among those drowned.
Spafford immediately booked passage for England to join his grieving wife. When the ship reached the vicinity of the accident, he stood on the deck and wrote a hymn Christians around the world still sing. You might recognize some of the lyrics: When peace, like a river, attendeth my way/when sorrows like sea billows roll/ whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say/‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’
(You can listen to the song on YouTube, here).
Perseverance. Confidence in God. Devotion to our King despite tragedy. Mature men and women of God understand there are no shortcuts to the kind of spiritual strength that keep us faithful despite personal heartache. For that reason the Church teaches us such perseverance blossoms only through the grace of God as we seek Christ each day in the pages of Holy Scripture, listening for His voice in attentive prayer, worship, and -- if you are a Catholic -- regularly meeting Him at Mass and in the Sacraments. It is not an either-or thing. It is a combination of each, a combination which gave spiritual strength, for example, to St. Terese of Lisieux who wrote just before she died at the young age of 24: “Everything is a grace. Everything is the direct effect of our Father's love - difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything. Because through them she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events, to the heart that loves, all is well.”
That’s the kind of relationship we all need with God. And that’s the relationship God wants with us.
Isn't it only prudent that we learn to seek God now, and not when life is crumbling?