AUGUST 2, 2020
What do you do when beset by nagging troubles? Do you sometimes look for a place to run and hide, so you can just be by yourself?
What if your troubles were more than just irksome little problems? What if you were bothered by a death, perhaps of a close friend, such as someone you had recently celebrated a milestone with, or perhaps the best man or maid of honour in your wedding? You can imagine how lost you would feel, and how you would long to be alone, to sort out your feelings and decide how to pick up the pieces and move on.
Perhaps it was like that for Jesus, when he learned that John the Baptist, the one who had recently baptized him, was beheaded on the order of a king, to satisfy the wish of a child. Think of the emotions Jesus must have felt: anguish, torment, and probably even guilt for not being there to stop it. Most likely, these emotions flooded his mind as “he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”
But after Jesus arrived at that place, did he find the solitude he was looking for? Far from it. A crowd of 5,000 waited for him, people who were there not to comfort him in his anguish, nor to mourn with him, but rather, to ask him to attend to their personal needs, to cure them, and to hear him speak. What did Jesus do? “His heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.”
Where did the resilience come from, that allowed Jesus to face the multitudes when all he really wanted to do was to be alone?
The answer was most likely through his daily prayer life with God. The Bible has numerous passages in which Jesus speaks to his need to be by himself in prayer with his Father, to nurture and deepen his relationship with God, so that in times of deep distress he would have the wellspring of grit and compassion necessary to rise up to the occasion and deal with the hardship of his life on earth.
And so, it is with us.
The past months have been hard on most of us. A pandemic, civil unrest and a widening political divide have us looking for a deserted island, where we can block these issues from our minds. Unfortunately, for most of us, that is not an option.
Instead, we need to understand that our daily prayers and quiet times of reflection and solitude are as important for our well-being as daily exercise and healthy eating is for our bodies. Focused time spent in prayer with God can strengthen our resolve and provide us with guideposts to follow when we are faced with difficult days. We can pray for strength and courage to endure the hardships. Most of all, we can pray to not let fear and anger push our love for each other out of our hearts.
We can pray that through all hardship, we will love like God does, and not count the costs.
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