I am rerunning this post for Divine Mercy Sunday.
Catholics are familiar with the beautiful devotion to Jesus as the Divine Mercy. This devotion is based on the private revelations of Jesus to a young Polish nun that emphasized the unfathomable depths of God’s merciful love. St. Maria Faustina became the first saint of the new millennium when she was canonized by our late Polish pope, John Paul II.
It has been over 10 years now that I first read St. Faustina’s Diary. Yet I cannot forget the unexpected impact that the messages had on me. I want to share with you today the one that changed my life forever. It comes at the end of the section numbered 90. Jesus says, “It is not for the success of a work, but for the suffering that I give reward.”
These words hit me like a 2×4 between the ears!
Let me set the stage for you and give context to this statement. Jesus had asked Sr. Faustina to have an image made of him as he appeared to her as the Divine Mercy. He wanted these images distributed around the world. Being a cloistered nun, Sr. Faustina was a bit overwhelmed at the request. She asked the priest who was her confessor to help her accomplish this task. The priest took on the task but then began to meet with tremendous resistance on all fronts. Sr. Faustina became perplexed and asked Jesus what was going on. I am including all of section 90 here by way of explanation:
“One day I saw interiorly how much my confessor would have to suffer: friends will desert you while everyone will rise up against you and your physical strength will diminish. I saw you as a bunch of grapes chosen by the Lord and thrown into the press of suffering. Your soul, Father, will at times be filled with doubts about this work and about me.
I saw that God himself seemed to be opposing [him], and I asked the Lord why He was acting in this way toward him, as though He were placing obstacles in the way of his doing what He himself had asked him to do. And the Lord said: I am acting thus with him to give testimony that this work is Mine. Tell him not to fear anything: My gaze is on him day and night. There will be as many crowns to form his crown as there will be souls saved by this work. It is not for the success of a work, but for the suffering that I give reward.”
In an instant, I knew that I had been putting way too much energy into trying to succeed in my life. What I saw was that I was literally killing myself trying to succeed in life, thinking that this was what I was supposed to be doing. And here is God saying that success is not important to Him!
So if success is not important to God, what is? He tells Faustina that it is the willingness to suffer that is rewarded! To maintain the context, it is the willingness to suffer in love, out of commitment to God’s Will.
Wow! How many times do we want to run from our commitments because we feel that they are dragging us down, or holding us back? We think that if we were only free, we would be able to succeed. While this desire to run may be part of our human nature, it is a part of our fallen human nature, and does not come from God.
This new insight had implications for me professionally, too. I could see that many people come for professional counseling at those times in life when circumstances are particularly difficult. Often they are coming for permission to “cut and run.” They are frustrated and tired, and want to be free to succeed in their own endeavors. Therapists, who are not grounded in faith in God, will give that permission in the unfortunate misunderstanding that life is all about pursuing personal happiness. See My Story.
God does not call us to personal happiness, He calls us to holiness. He calls us to places that we do not want to go. For us these places are impossible! And that is the point. God brings us to places where we cannot make it on our own. He brings us to places where we can get through only with His grace. He wants us to know that the success of our lives is His work and not our own. He asks us to stay, to love, and to suffer. But He does not abandon us! He wants us to lean on Him. He wants us to trust in Him. Jesus told Faustina to place a motto at the bottom of the image. The motto reads: “Jesus, I trust in you!”
Where are you feeling overwhelmed in your life? Are there situations from which you want to run?