The next few Sundays looked the same. Each week I was presented with an opportunity to tell them more about my faith but each week, I responded with a one-word answer. After a month of this happening, my siblings caught on. They noticed that instead of cramming for a test on Sunday night, I was at church. They called me anything from “church freak” to “soon-to-be-nun.”
Everyone seemed to have it all figured out… everyone but me. I began questioning my entire career path (about five times a day), and I felt like I couldn’t keep up academically since there was now a much higher standard. I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me. I found myself grasping for an identity.
Most of my first month, I was stressed out, anxious about the future, and addicted to microwavable pizza.
This doesn’t mean that you should just settle for boring friends. When Jesus promised to give us “life to the full” (John 10:10), He must’ve meant something more exciting than a youth group bowling trip. Have you prayed for good friendships? Ask God to provide friends that are pursuing holiness that you also enjoy hanging out with.
Summer is here. Hallelujah! I know you are enjoying putting the stress and monotony of the school year behind you.
But before you slow down too much remember this: If we want to continue growing spiritually during the summer we must maintain some routine and order. Any type of growth, especially spiritual growth, requires structure.
If we want to come to know the Lord, if we want to become the saints He designed us to be, we need to stop choosing the easy path, the comfortable path. We must step up and establish some order.
I used to make fun of my neighbor behind his back. I didn't want to see him do well. I secretly hoped he would strike out or the outfielder would catch his ball. Then I could get up there and hit a home run! At last, I'd have my moment to shine. I would be considered the best. Everyone would want to be like ME! I was envious and it tore me apart. I had no character. I was a bad teammate and a bad friend.
That’s when desolation hit. Prayer became pretty challenging, reading Scripture felt like doing homework, every single thought distracted me and I felt an overall darkness. This lasted for about 4 months and after recognizing my “dark night” I knew what I had to do for a “bright morning.”
Eventually, in my heart, the answer became clear. But it was gradual. It was never a burning bush or a voice from the heavens. And honestly, I think I grew more as a person because of it. Throughout my seemingly endless period of questioning my future, I learned to trust. God created the Universe. Did I honestly think He couldn’t handle University?
Now, as a senior in college I am not a princess or a wedding cake maker. As I grew up I realized that I could not continue to plan my life around things that could change. I decided it made sense to anchor my life in the one thing that would never change, the one thing that would continually satisfy me – seeking the will of God the Father and living my life asking for His help and direction.
It can be hard to pray sometimes. For me especially, I often find myself distracted and my mind wanders away from my conversation with God. Because of my tendency to do this, I like to give my prayer a nice structure that I can follow. It helps me to focus on God and give Him my undivided attention for however long I pray.
The Stations of the Cross are prayers that help us meditate on Jesus’ Passion and sacrifice for us. They incorporate the use of Scripture, prayers, meditations, and songs while traveling to 14 stations. The Stations are based upon Scriptural accounts from the time when Jesus was condemned to death until He was laid in the tomb. The practice of taking a pilgrimage to follow Jesus’ steps on the way to His crucifixion has existed since the early Church. It’s an opportunity for us to truly enter into the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ passion and death, which prepares us for His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Let me set up a common scenario in my life. I sit down to pray to God, whether it is before or during Mass, during Adoration, or just in my spare time. I find myself starting really strong and then my mind wanders. I coo over the cute baby five pews behind me. I plan out what work I am going to be doing later that night. I wonder what on earth was I thinking when I answered that question in class. I try to figure out what I’m going to wear tomorrow.
Let’s just say I get distracted easily.
So, I committed: 40 minutes of “devotional time” every single day. You can call it quiet time, prayer time, or just… time – whatever you need to call it so it doesn’t sound like a punishment. I didn’t really know what to call it. I just knew that I was going to do it.
Think about it: 40 minutes isn’t a huge block of time. It’s one drama or two sitcoms on Netflix. We can all find 40 minutes in a day. We just have to choose to do it.
To be honest, I felt lost. Some days I would think that being a priest was my calling, others that having a giant family (thirteen kids to be exact) was. In my life I would see signals everywhere — a bible verse that told me to be a priest and a baby that told me to be a dad. It distressed me; I was frustrated a lot of the time, and it began to wear on me. I was asking God why he didn’t just tell me what was up.
Ready or not, here it comes… It’s almost 2014.
I don’t know about you, but this year for me has been a year of challenge, change, and growth with a ton of added mercy and grace. Looking back at the challenges, I am grateful; grateful that the Lord allows me to grow when I suffer and grateful that He never stops loving me.
Feeling overwhelmed with finals? Don’t forget to take time to pray. Keeping your focus on God is one of the best ways to deal with stress.
Here’s a prayer just for you. Bookmark it, screen-shot it, print it off… whatever will help you remember to pray it and make that important connection with God that will transform this time of anxiety into a time of peaceful perseverance.
These promises changed my life. Don’t rationalize or make excuses for yourself. Push yourself a bit, work a little longer, sacrifice something else, persist, and persevere! Following through on these promises will not only bring you joy, but freedom to live the life God is calling you to!
Does prayer really do anything?
If God cared about us, why would He need us to ask for anything before He gave it to us?
The only think prayer does is make you feel good about yourself.
Do you ever find yourself thinking this way about prayer? Or have your heard others question prayer in this way? That’s totally normal . . . you are not a freak or a “terrible Christian.” It shows that you are taking prayer seriously and not just kind of “going through the motions.” If prayer is going to “mean something,” then it should “do something.”
When I think about, some of the best things that I have experienced in life … I said, 'yes' to. I said 'yes' to being on a soccer team, I said 'yes' to going on a mission trip, I said 'yes' to a relationship with Christ.
I have seen over and over that one of the main reasons people feel isolated and don’t have the kind of friendships, relationships, or community they want in their lives is that they habitually say “no” to invitations and opportunities to be around people and interact with people. They say “no” so often and so consistently that it’s become a habit they don’t even know they have.
Some people claim that they never tan, only burn. But just because you don't look like a lobster doesn't mean your skin cells can't turn cancerous later. At the very least you'll reach middle age and discover your skin has the consistency of leather.
Sometimes we don't think we need to pray either, because we don't 'feel' like we need God. But the truth is that we always need God. If we don't pray regularly to build a relationship with Him then when hard times come and we finally feel like we need Him, it's difficult to listen to His voice since we're so out of practice. Regular prayer is a necessity.
Because of this, we need to strive extra hard to keep first things first. Namely, prayer. If we aren't trying, prayer can easily get lost in the chaos. In order to help with this situation, I've compiled a brief list of things that help me continue to stay on point during these summer months.