Our days are so full of activities, conflicts, health issues, technological stimulation, 24/7 news cycles, social media interaction, division, polarization, and mix into all of this, ongoing warfare in Syria, Yemen, and between Russia and Ukraine, which can all contribute to our emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual unrest. If we do not have the proper foundation and orientation, we can feel stretched, hollow, and/or fatigued at best. One day can seem to blend into another, and another, and another. The image of being on a hamster wheel or an unending treadmill can fall afresh in our mind’s eye when we actually do take a minute to breathe. Anxiety, worry, stress, fear, prescriptions, and addictions all appear to be on the rise and swirling out of control.
Is there an answer to this hyper pace or are we doomed to just keep going until the wheels fall off? The opening verse in today’s reading provides an antidote when we begin to feel agitated or unsettled by any or all of the above .
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn 14:1).
We are invited to place our trust in God through his Son, Jesus. By putting them first does not mean that the externals to our life will take an abrupt turn for the better, but what it does mean is that we will have support and divine assistance. It means that we are not alone in our struggles. The disciples found this out when in the midst of a sudden sea squall. Their boat was taking on water as the waves grew higher they were terrified and so, called to a sleeping Jesus. Jesus awoke and with a word, he calmed the sea (cf. Mk 4:35-41).
Jesus may or may not calm the sea of our trials and tribulations, but what he will do is be present with us through our storms in life and we can trust in him that he will guide us through. As we grow more confident in our trust in Jesus we will come to be assured that no matter who or what comes at us, he will be there to assist us. Then will experience more peace and calm within ourselves – no Prozac or Zoloft required. The ultimate assurance that Jesus provides is that when we surrender our life to him we belong to him, we are not alone or orphaned. He gave his life for us, to redeem and save us so that we can be assured of our home for eternity.
Our trust and faith in Jesus will grow when we realize that building the foundation of a prayer practice and a relationship with him, as with any other person, takes time spent together. The best part is that Jesus will help us. As we seek his discernment, he will show us where we can make changes in our life. Our first step is to allow ourselves to make periodic efforts to stop in our day to be still.
This time does not need to be lengthy, three to five minutes to start can do wonders. On the surface level, by stopping for five minutes to pray and breathe more deeply and consciously, we get off the wheel, we step out of survival and reaction mode, so we can then make more mindful decisions, and we can come to see that we truly have options, but more importantly, we begin to experience a growing relationship and intimacy with Jesus so as to begin to recognize his voice and receive more guidance.
The Liturgy of the Hours, meditation and as part of my recovery from pneumonia, a newly introduced stretching routine, has provided a good anchor for me. When I went to the emergency room a year ago January, I made sure to bring my breviary and rosary in case I was hospitalized which I was for five days.
Having set times to stop to meditate and pray throughout the day has been helpful, especially on those days when my schedule is full to overflowing. Author Wanda E. Brunstetter, wrote, “If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.” There is a lot of truth in her statement. I have had busy days, weeks and months, where I have wondered if taking the time to pray and meditate was really the most sensible choice. Time and again it has been. I have also been pondering during my recovery about the fact that I have been way too busy for some time.
The Rosary is another great way to get into God’s word by meditating on the mysteries of the life of Jesus and Mary. If you are not able to pray the whole Rosary in one sitting, start with one decade a day. Read for a few minutes from the Bible once in the morning and then return to meditate on the same verse or verses that touch or challenge you throughout the day. You can also read the daily Mass readings and place your self in the scene and allow the account to open up before you as if were actually there.
Each of these practices offer us a few of the many ways to stop the madness, to slow down, simplify, and connect with the power, the love, and the grace that Jesus yearns to share with us such that no matter the external or internal upheaval, we may experience his peace, that peace that surpasses all understanding (cf. Philippians 4:7). An important point to keep in mind is that we need to be aware of the season we are in, and our particular station in life. Rising an infant your very young children is a key priority. Taking time to pray is important for renewal and guidance, but those times will be shorter and more flexible than for someone who is retired.
It is always important to begin small, seek Jesus’ guidance and take baby steps. What is important is that we pray daily, how long is not, and as we grow in this process our life will adjust and there will be activities that we realize we can let go of because they really aren’t helping us to deepen our relationship with God and we will begin to see what are real and healthy priorities that we need to maintain.
Photo: My anchors for slowing down to hear God in the quiet of my heart.