Secure in Insecurity

For those who are advanced in the spiritual life and have learned to place God above all things leaving behind the cares of this world: this article is not for you.
But if you are like me and you find your progression in the spiritual life slow to the point that it often feels like you are regressing, then maybe you will be able to relate.
I was reflecting on the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). In this parable, a rich man had an abundant harvest and felt very secure in his wealth. But that night, God would require his life. I believe that many people see this as a statement about how we have no guarantees about the future. And this is a good and apt reflection. But I think we need to bring this into a more immediate state. The parable is trying to remind us of something that we often forget:
We have no security right now!
None of what we have in this life alone is secure. We could not take even our next breath without God willing it. Every second we have and every good thing that we experience is a gift. And it is a gift that can be taken away at any moment.
The problem occurs when we forget how much of our security hangs by a thread. We think that we are in control of our lives and our fortunes. And while we do exercise some control, there is so much outside of what we can influence. I have a very good friend of mine who is struggling with health issues. He said that he has come face to face with the realization of how much of his life is out of his control. How many of us have experienced things like economic distress or relationship problems due to things outside of our power?
And when the troubles hit, we look back on all the bad choices we made in the past. We wonder why we didn’t plan or prepare for bad times. Like the Hobbits in the Shire, sometimes we think the times of peace and plenty are the rule rather than the exception. And we waste time on things that do not matter until we say like Richard II “I wasted time and now time doth waste me.”
The point of this is not to drive us to despair. Rather, it is to turn us ever more to the God we need.
In my own life, I am not a stoic soul who bears pains with patience. I quickly burden all those around me with my tales of woe. I do not suffer well, the way the saints did as they rejoiced to share in the cross of Christ. But I should rejoice. Even in my weakness I can see the benefits in these crosses.
The biggest improvement is in the intensity of my prayer life. I have written before about the necessity of building up habitual prayer even if it is not accompanied by feelings. The spiritual danger with that situation is that you can go on mental auto-pilot and do what Christ warned us against and “rattle on like the pagans do.” (Matt 6:7) But when real fear and terror in life strike, there is an amazing turn-around in concentration and sincerity. In the immediacy of my mind, this prayer matters.
And here is the thing: it always mattered. I am always in need of God. The rich fool thought that in his moment of seeming security he was not in need of God. But there is never a case where we can escape the need for His grace in all matters of life. The troubles I experience do not make God matter more. Rather they make me realize how much God has always mattered even when I did not notice.
Another thing that is a blessing of insecurity is the improvement against my vices. The more secure I become, the easier it is for me to fall into bad habits. But when troubles hit, I find many of my current vices squeezed out of my soul. For example, I often struggle with horrible judgmentality, the likes of which Christ condemned the Pharisees. I look at my brothers and sisters in Christ and I focus on their faults. But when my troubles come, I reflect on a how unworthy I am of any Divine assistance. In that reflection I can see my faults better and I work harder at avoiding them. And when that happens, I see others in a much more positive and grace-filled light. Please allow me to be clear: nothing about the person I was judging has changed. They always were more worthy of my esteem. What changed was the haughtiness that infected my perceptions has somewhat diminished. I strive to be more worthy of the graces I need from God.
That is not some kind Tony Soprano type character who will only do us favors if we kiss his feet. God ALWAYS wants to do what is best for us, regardless of our own goodness. That is because the love of God is pure gift.
The problem lies with me. I am like that unruly child who only stops punching his little sister because he doesn’t want to get in trouble. I, like the child, should cease my bad behavior because I come to a strong realization of its wrongness. But instead, like the child, I find myself falling back into bad habits once the negative pressure is off. Once I think I can “get away with it,” I sink back into old vices.
And for that reason I think God gives me troubles. He is giving me a chance to reorient my heart and soul. I am always in need of His support and my soul is always in desperate need of repentance. But it is hard to motivate the soul to radical change when your head lays sweetly care-free on a soft pillow as you slumber in peace.
I am a weak person. And the troubles the Lord sends me would be light to others, but they are sometimes so difficult for me. But as CS Lewis said when he was dealing with a much worse situation (the death of his beloved wife), “Either I need this or I don’t.” God does not desire anyone to suffer needlessly. And He will only allow us to suffer if some greater good can from it. Lewis could not quite fathom how his pain was a help to him. But once he surrendered to God’s will, he found peace.
So do I really trust God in my suffering? Do I really believe that He will take care of me? And do I really believe that this is all ultimately for my good?
Will I remember that the only security I have is what I can find in God alone?

Copyright 2015, W.L.Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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