“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
-St. John Paul the Great
What is it about knowledge of the future that is so enticing and appealing to us as human beings? Is it an attempt to quench the suffering we must endure and overcome as Christians with no knowledge of what is to come? If we knew what would happen, what would be the difference? Would it hurt less? Maybe, but I think the bigger issue is this – if we knew, we would attempt to control and potentially change the outcome.
Thus, one of the biggest struggles for each of us is to faithfully step forward knowing we do not have the answers in order to allow our God to lead us rather than attempting to lead ourselves.
In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict spends time on this subject. He states, “In every age, man’s questioning has focused not only on his ultimate origin; almost more than the obscurity of his beginnings, what preoccupies him is the hiddenness of the future that awaits him. Man wants to tear aside the curtain; he wants to know what is going to happen…”
Indeed, our obsession with what is to come can be one of our greatest downfalls, and religion in its many forms provides some security and preventative measures to avoid the “grief” of “what is to come.”
One of my favorite things to say when I was younger (and much more naïve) was that I could handle whatever was going to happen as long as I knew when it would happen. And I think that’s likely true of everyone. Parents struggling with infertility, adults praying for the right spouse, the unemployed applying for jobs, children watching their mother battle cancer. If each of us was given a Magic 8 ball, we think we could endure the result easier and without as much grief. But we can’t. We are asked to blindly walk forward with no firm answers.
This is what we call faith.
Pope Benedict mentions the downfall of Saul and how hard it was for him to banish sorcery from the land. God’s silence was too much for Saul to bear as a mortal being and thus, he visited a sorcerer to gain “knowledge” of the future. Thus, his ruin.
Yet, each of us are Saul in many ways, even if we don’t get our palms read. We find ways to predict the future, and if we cannot, we attempt to control it. However, the future is too much for each of us, and in trying to understand something outside the realm of our littleness as humans frustrates the lives we are called to live in the present. We aren’t God, we are merely mortal beings. And in approaching our lives by attempting to control and predict denies the existence of God. We aren’t called to know the future, unless He gives us this insight and wisdom.
I would argue that we are not capable of understanding or appreciating as humans all that God has in store for us. Were He to reveal all the answers of our lives in one moment’s glance, we couldn’t handle it. Even more, the single act of giving us every ounce of knowledge would deny us the joy of choosing Him in faith.
The struggles we are called to endure and the happiness we face are not valueless-rather, they have value because of their place in our lives. And they are allowed or given to us at just the moment we need them for further sanctification. Each call and every encounter is an opportunity to grow holier. Should we shun such gifts by avoiding, attempting to predict, or asserting control we don’t have, we deny His existence and elevate ourselves. To do so is to insult the One who came to save us.
Rather, we must humbly accept our shortcomings, embrace our humanity, and step forward faithfully, knowing that we will never have all the answers; with each call to holiness comes the grace necessary. Let’s not forget where it all points.
St. Augustine stated, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him, the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement.” We are all called to live virtuous and heroic lives. Ask Him what He wants from you, and go do it.
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Betsey Sawyer is an attorney and adjunct professor in Mississippi, and works for Women of Grace as the Mission Advancement Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo courtesy of Eliza Kennard Photography)