Knowing the gift of God

“If you only knew the gift of God.”

This came over me Sunday afternoon, when one of my roommates suggested the household take a few minutes to pray together. We’d pulled out the Christmas ornaments and were knee-deep in boxes, bubble wrap, and strands of lights, but we let it all go and sat down and laid out a lot of the things that have been going on in our minds and hearts over the past several weeks.

It’s been a difficult time for many of my friends, and we’ve all felt it in our little household. Between one friend getting into a pretty awful motorcycle accident, grandparents passing away, difficult family issues, sickness, break-ups, job situation worries, anxiety, and people being just plain old depressed, it has been tough (at times) to see God’s hand in everything.

Yet as I prayed with these wonderful women, I was overcome with the realization that even the crosses we’re being asked to carry right now are gifts. You hear and read all the time that God is close to those who suffer, that he carries us through our difficult times, that throughout the darkness he loves us, though we can’t feel it. Sometimes it can be so hard to believe.

There’s a story that John Paul II once had the door of his “pope mobile” slammed on his fingers, and one of his aides heard him whisper, “Thank you, Jesus, for loving me that much.”

This story never ceases to amaze me. It’s a beautiful reminder that sufferings are often the way God chooses to love us. Our first reaction is to pull back, to run away, to reject the unpleasantness that must come our way at times. As my spiritual director once told me, that’s human–like putting our hand on something hot, we immediately yank ourselves away. It’s a protective mechanism. We want to think of God as always warm, always quiet and smelling slightly of candle wax and incense, the place where we can always find rest. We want to receive good things from him, and when we do, we love him. It’s easy to love him then.

Being a Christian has to involve the cross, though. Christ went off to deserted places to rest and find solace with his Father, yes; but he also took the cup and drank it, took the cross and carried it … and died on it.

Sometimes we have to step back from our lists of wants and needs, we have to let go of our preconceived notions of who God is and how he ought to feature in our lives and just recognize the gift of God in even the nastiest situations. It’s the daily challenge. In good times and in bad, in the most profound moments and in the simplest, to find God.

And in the midst of your darkest times, look around to see the spots of light he gives you–whether it be a moment of peace, a beautiful song on the radio, or four beautiful women to pray with for ten minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

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