Lenten Reflection - Thursday, March 14

In today’s reading from Unseen Warfare, our guide gives us some concrete ideas about how we can tell if we’ve learned to not rely on ourselves and live with trust in God. We can tell by looking at the way we react when we fall, that is, when we disobey the commandments of God and follow our own will.

            First, this is how you know you’re doing it wrong: If, when they grieve at their downfall, reproaching and abusing themselves for it, they think: ‘I shall do this and that, the consequences of my downfall will be effaced and all will be well one more,’ this is a sure sign that before the downfall they trusted themselves, instead of trusting God.

            Sometimes when we fall, we’re so angry with ourselves that we even curse ourselves, and try to act as if the sin was uncharacteristic of who we are and how we normally act. I worked in a French bakery for some time, and whenever the head baker would make a mistake, he would throw everything in the trash, even things that had taken hours to prepare. He could not tolerate the thought that he had done anything wrong, and he believed that he never made a mistake. This is the attitude of the one who trusts in himself and not in God. He cannot admit that he is a sinful creature in need of God’s forgiveness and help. When he falls, he treats it like some kind of accident which is explainable and which should be erased from the past as quickly as possible.

            Unseen Warfare also shows us how to tell if we’re going it right: If someone does not rely on himself but puts his trust in God, when he falls he is not greatly surprised and is not overcome with excessive grief, for he knows that it is the result of his own impotence, and, above all, of the weakness of his trust in God. So his downfall increases his distrust of himself and makes him try all the harder to increase and deepen his humble trust in God.

            As we set out on this great journey of Lent, a time when we think of how we might grow in our relationship to the living God, there are two truths we must maintain always in our minds: first, that we are sinners. Sin is the reason we seek God, it’s the reason we go to Church, it’s the reason we pray and study the scriptures. Sin is our sickness, and we cannot deny that we are in need of a physician to heal us. And second, that God is the physician. God loves us, desires to forgive us, and longs that we would seek His forgiveness.

            We will always sin, and God will always forgive. This doesn’t mean we abandon ourselves to sin, not at all, but that we understand our nature and God’s nature as well. The power we have is that we always fail. How can our weakness give us power? It’s our power because God always forgives us, and our recognition of our sin is the doorway through which we go to meet him.

            We have come, brothers and sisters, to the fourth day of the Lenten fast. As we travel, we will fall, even continually fall. But we have a Savior in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Who will lift us up and put our feet back on the right path. Let us keep Him ever before us, and rely on Him alone for our strength.