A friend of mine once gave me a great piece of advice for fruitful prayer. “Pray from the place where you’re weakest, and where the waves and winds of the storm are crashing on top of you,” he said.
Life has felt quite overwhelming over the last several years. We have growing children who need lots of attention; I have more responsibilities and duties at work than I ever have before; there are things around the house that need to be fixed; I have had health problems; we always have financial questions; and on and on. It seems to be a perpetual barrage of hurricane-level winds and tsunami-like waves. So, it is good for me to take my friend’s advice for prayer.
As I have taken that piece of advice to prayer, God has whispered another beautiful truth to me: the place of frustration is also the place of joy and peace. What, God? Surely, that’s backwards…at least it is to my frail and feeble human brain. This truth requires some extended reflection.
Here’s how it works. God allows some of the responsibilities, questions, and frustrations in his Divine Providence, because He knows that they ultimately are best for me. Others I bring upon myself. Yet, God still can work with those, too.
Once I have a set of responsibilities, questions, and frustrations (probably a smaller pile than many others), I have an opportunity. I can choose, as St. Paul remarks, to live among the desires and impulses of the flesh (cf. Eph. 2:3), which usually means maintaining a tight grip upon my pile of problems; that I won’t let anyone help, even the Divine Helper. On the other hand, I could choose to allow Him to reveal to me “the immeasurable riches of his grace” (Eph. 2:7) by relinquishing control; and I could allow Him to bring me to that place of peace where I am seated next to Him in the heavens (cf. Eph. 2:6).
Seated intimately near the Lord is the place where joy and peace will be found, regardless of what else is happening in life. Of course, I’ll have to return to my daily routines, and there will be temptation to reclaim control. Perhaps, though, I will be better able this time to develop some practical habits that will assist me throughout the various storms. And, perhaps the winds and waves that surround me will be those of mercy, grace, peace, and joy rather than frustration and catastrophe.