Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Sacrament of the Present Moment: Growth through Embracing Circumstances
God works continually in our lives through the present moment. Indeed, in the Sacrament of the Present Moment, Jean Pierre de Caussade affirms that the Lord himself is present in the moment. First—as we saw in the last blog—God is present in the obligations and duties of everyday life. Second, the Lord is present in difficulties that we must suffer. God is veiled in the present moment and the very trials that it holds.
Difficulties and Trials
God uses trails in our lives. As much as we do not like it and try to avoid it, difficulties are part of the Almighty’s plans for our lives. “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you,” states 1 Peter 4: 12-13. Whether it is persecution for the Gospel or suffering “grief in all kinds of trials” (1:6), God is in control and we are called to rejoice, as the Epistle of 1 Peter encourages us over and over.
We embrace trials and suffering because God uses them—no matter what they are—to shape our lives. “Not only this,” writes Paul in Romans 5:3-5, “but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.”
Learning to Trust in God’s Hidden Work
When we are in the midst of trials, however, we do not like them. Most often we do not understand why they are happening to us or what they are doing for us. I, for one, certainly do not see much character being developed at the moment!
De Caussade compares us to sick patients who don’t like the medicine prescribed by the doctor. We are like bed-ridden patients “who, ignorant of the virtue of medicines, resent their bitter taste, often imagining they are poison. And all the crises and weakness seem to justify our fears. Nevertheless, in spite of this mortal threat, obeying the doctor’s orders, we swallow the medicines he prescribes and recover.” 
Some days we seem to experience one trial after another. Exhausted, we do not get a moment’s rest. Although we cannot see what God is building in our lives, he is indeed at work. De Caussade asserts: “It is in these afflictions, which succeed one another each moment, that God, veiled and obscured, reveals himself, mysteriously bestowing his grace in a manner quite unrecognized by the souls who feel only weakness in bearing their cross, distaste for performing their duty, and capable only of the most mediocre spiritual practices.” 
When I first read this last quote, it really struck me. I had a lot of obligations on me at the time, and I was struggling to keep a positive attitude. Helping to care for someone in need, I had very limited time alone with the Lord, and I didn’t feel his presence much at the time. Reading this quote helped me so much. I could really identify with it—feeling only weakness in bearing my cross, distaste for some of my duties, and lacking time and emotion energy. Then I realized I was still in a good place. No matter how difficult the situation might be, the Lord was present. He was using me to help tend to others, and he was working to transform my life.
Yes, God is present in the present moment, even—especially—the difficult ones. I simply need to embrace that reality. Then I can rest, as I entrust it all to him!
 Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), p. 17.
© 2012 Glenn E. Myers