“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8: 34-37)
Trying to hear and obey the word of God without the grace of God just doesn’t work. The above passage can cause me some anxiety and fear when I try to absorb it on my own… “how can I do that…it’s too much for me…my track record is no reason for hope… woe is me.” Left to that analysis, I usually try to move on to something else…. it’s just too much. It appears the rich young ruler (Mt. 19:21) followed a similar analysis and rejected the Lord’s call and went away sad. Without the help of the Lord and his grace, it’s all too much.
As I think back over my life, I see situations where by the grace of God we were able to do some pretty amazing things… things that should have caused us to run away… things like moving from the Midwest to the East, leaving a very good job in order to serve him in a new school and community, being open to life and raising 10 kids, bringing in our mothers to live with us in their final years, and now trying be be good models in this last stage of our lives. Yet in all of this, we came to know that God was with us and would help us, that we could do it, that he would have our back and it would be an adventure and it would bring great spiritual joy…. and it did. By nature, I’m not an impulsive guy. I’m not an adventurous person. I’m pretty conservative. Yet when God called, he enabled a way for us to go, and go with peace. When we experienced God’s call, we experienced his peace and grace and a “fire” to actually move ahead…. I knew we should “go for it”.
St. Anthony of the Desert said to “ not trust in your own righteousness and not worry about things done in the past …. to know yourself and prepare to offer yourself as a sacrifice acceptable to the Lord”. For me this includes admitting to the Lord that “I am weak and on my own I won’t pick up my cross and follow…. yet I want to do it and will do it if you just pour out your grace and peace upon me. With you Lord, I can do it and will do it…but you must send your peace.”
So, I can still get a queasy stomach when I think about what God’s will may bring for me in the future…. usually some hypothetical scenario like being“locked in a dungeon with snakes and alligators”. Nevertheless in the future, when God does present the challenge and opportunity of his will before me, I know he will help me. I know he will give me his peace and grace and all will be well with my soul. This is very good news. God’s will is always the best. May each of us embrace it with joy.