Dear Fr. Joe: I’m really in a funk and I can’t shake it. At college, I find that I really don’t have good friends and I’m struggling in my prayer life … everyone around me seems to be happy but me. What can I do?
I’m so sorry that things are like this right now. Life is a challenge most days; at times, these struggles can threaten to overwhelm us. I’m glad you asked for help and pray that God guides my words.
Recently, I went through an exceptionally difficult time in my life and was really struggling. A lot of things crashed in on me and I felt lost and scared.
One day, in my prayer, I encountered Psalm 77. I had read it a lot in the past, but, on this day, it hit me really hard. In it, I found a process to deal with my grief: a kind of roadmap that changed me fundamentally.
The psalm starts off with the author crying out to God: He pours out his heart and his troubles, and wonders if God has abandoned him. He is honest and straightforward in describing his feelings and thoughts.
I think this is the first step. Sometimes, we forget that God knows what we are feeling and thinking. There is no value or sense in trying to hide it from God, or even feeling bad about how you feel. Simply pour it out to God: Tell him what’s in your heart. When you do this, you are not telling God something he doesn’t know – you are giving him permission to go in and begin the work of healing.
The next part of the psalm begins with the line “I will recall the deeds of the Lord: yes, recall your wonders of old. I will ponder your works; on your exploits I will meditate.”
Now that you’ve called out to the Lord and poured out your heart, the next step is to think through what God has done already, both for you and for the whole world.
Think of the times in the past when you really didn’t know how you were going to get through yet, here you are. How did God do that? What has he saved you from already?
After looking at how God has worked in your life, look at how he has worked in the world. Creation alone can give us an amazing sense of God: how he ordered all of the world to work together in unity, the beauty of creation – it’s amazing to think of. I then tend to go to the crucifix or the Blessed Sacrament. I look at how deeply God loves me and used absolutely soul-crushing brutality to bring the world back to him. I ponder the kind of love that compelled our God to intervene on our behalf and I’m moved.
In this, we begin to find healing, as we realize that this awesome, powerful God also is a personal, individual God who not only sees and knows your pain, he has the power to bring you through it – even to find victory in it.
I tell you now, in this moment, that I thank God for those struggles. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but it’s true. God took the most painful moments in my life and transformed them into something so beautiful I know I could never create it.
In the end, this causes me to praise him, to thank him for his goodness and love and power, which all work together to draw me closer to him. No matter what you feel, no matter what your circumstances, recalling what God has done and praising him for it brings your heart to a better place.
Beyond this, there are some practical things you can do that may help. I would suggest that, if you are in college, you immerse yourself in the campus ministry available to you, if there is one. I worked at a university for a few years and found it amazing how often the students formed lifelong, life-giving friendships. When you surround yourself with people who choose God first, you’ll find a lot of comfort and joy.
Remember, whatever your circumstances, whatever you feel, wherever you are and whatever you believe God loves you with an all powerful and soul-saving love. No one can take that from you.
You’ve probably heard the quote, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes,” but that is not true. Ask Mary, the Mother of God. In fact, there is only one thing in life that is certain. There is only one thing in life that is inevitable – and that is love. “Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
That love is yours.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence!
Send your questions to: “In the Know with Fr. Joe” FAITH Magazine, 1500 E. Saginaw St., Lansing, MI 48906 Or: JoeInBlack@priest.com