How we reject God’s help
19th Sunday Ordinary Time, year C | 1 Kings 19:4-8; Jn 6:41-51
I find it difficult to ask for and accept the help of others. For example, I hate asking for directions. Lucky for me, with GPS I no longer need to do this when I drive. There are still situations where I should to ask for directions, like when I am in the grocery store looking for something on the shelves and cannot find it. Still, I hate asking for help. I would rather walk around trying to find the thing for ten minutes than stopping for 30 seconds to ask an attendant. Sometimes, after not finding what I was looking for, I have simply left the store without it instead of getting help. This, I know, is foolish. Assistance is always available. I just need to ask.
|Elijah fed by an Angel, Ferdinand Bol [source]|
In different ways, we all find ourselves in difficult situations where we need help. Here I am thinking of circumstances far more serious than not being able to find a particular soup in the grocery store! In the first reading we find the prophet Elijah in dire straights. God had sent Elijah on a mission to call Ahab, an evil king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (see 1 Kings 16:29-33), to conversion. In response, Ahab threatened to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2), forcing Elijah to flee for his life. In the first reading, Elijah is at the point of giving up, having lost all hope that he would live, let alone complete his mission. “Enough!”, Elijah cried out to God, “now, O Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:4). Do you now find yourself in a difficult situation? Although our circumstances are perhaps not as severe as Elijah, we all encounter hard times in which we need help and feel like giving up: seemingly impossible challenges in relationships (marriage, friendship, etc.); unemployment; struggles with addiction; or disillusionment with those in positions of (maybe even with the Church).
When we find ourselves in the the midst of such struggles, sometimes we do not accept the help that God offers. “Who would do something so counterproductive like refusing God’s assistance?” you might be asking. The people in the Gospel are one example (John 6:41-51). Jesus is trying to explain to them that he will give them life. He is the bread from heaven that will nourish them on their journey through life, just as the people of Israel were nourished by manna during their years of wandering in the wilderness. Unlike Elijah, who accepted the nourishment God gave him, the people reject Jesus. They complain and make excuses rather than accepting the help he offers. For many of the struggles we encounter in life, like those serious situations mentioned above, we need to ask other people for help (doctors, counsellors, etc.). At the same time, we need God’s help too. God is always there, ready to give important assistance in our difficulties. He can provide peace, hope and a sense of direction. God wants to help. Sometimes we do not give Him the chance.
One way we prevent God from assisting us is by not spending time with Him in silence. Mother Teresa was found of repeating, “in the silence of the heart God speaks”. If we do not find opportunities for silence, then we will have a hard time hearing the voice of God that consoles and directs us. Elijah sought out God in solitude and silence. He cried out to him in the midst of his anguish and God gave him the strength to continue. Finding times to be alone in silence with God is not easy. We live in a noisy, busy world. We have to fight to carve out silence in our lives. Mother Teresa lived a very active life, often in loud and chaotic urban environments. Because she knew she needed God’s help, she sought him out early each morning in a time of silent prayer. We need to be intentional, and perhaps a bit creative, in finding moments to be alone with God. Maybe when we are driving to work we could turn off the radio and let the car become a place of silence. After we wake up in the morning we could perhaps spend the first couple minutes asking God for help in our day. When we have a few extra minutes of time, like when we are waiting for the bus or have some lull in our day, instead of reaching to look at our cell and check social media or the news we could turn our thoughts to God who is always present with us. In the silence of the heart God speaks. If we have no silence in our life, we may miss what God says to us. In this way, we don’t let him help us.
Just as it is self-defeating (and even a bit foolish!) for me to leave a grocery store without an item rather than asking someone for help, we harm ourselves when we don’t let God help us. Living in such a noisy world, this is only too easy do. The good news, however, is that God always wants to assist us when we encounter difficulties. Let us allow him to help us! What is one way that you can find time to be alone with God in silence each day?