The Time of Trial

Interlude: First Love (Revised), performed by Stanton Lanier, on the Treasures of Peace, The Stanton Lanier Collection album

Have you ever had a time in your life where it just seemed like everything was going wrong, or you couldn’t do anything right?  I figure we’ve all had those times — there are plenty of references to it:

  • Every cloud has a silver lining. 
  • Keep your chin up.
  • When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
  • Save us from the time of trial.

A previous pastor said once that the Psalms were great for times like those.  They eloquently express the misery that we’ve all felt from time to time. And the psalms’ enemies don’t  have to be physical adversaries, they can be addiction, or other inner demons. Opened to a meaning I could relate to, I could now appreciate their power.  Sure, you can say “They’re all out to get me”, or “I can’t believe I’ve messed up again,” or “Nothing ever goes my way,” but doesn’t Psalm 13 say it better?

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
   and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Actually, we don’t need to be eloquent when it comes to grief or misery or whatever emotional ditch we’ve driven into.  We can read psalms, we can pray for deliverance from evil — it all helps.  

But when the world is crashing down, that is the perfect time for meditation.

Step 1: breathe.

Step 2: focus on your breath, your mantra.

Step 3: Let your thoughts go, let them pass.  Just breathe.

Let yourself disappear into the expanse that is God, the space between thoughts, the space between yesterdays and tomorrows, where calamity is suspended, like a science fiction movie where time slows down and everything pauses mid flight.  No special effects required. Just breathe.

Be still, and know that I am God.

Move your mind into that temple within, where being, sitting in silence in the temple of the Holy Spirit is enough.  No one to disappoint or be disappointed. To hurt or hurt you. No disease or dying. No solutions. No perfect words. No good works, or repentant actions or forgiving yet again.  Just the gentle rhythm of your breath, your mantra, and the presence of God.

And minutes later, when the silence is broken, you can open your eyes back to reality, unchanged though it may be, and remember that through all that is, God is always there.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
   all you who wait for the Lord.

Psalm 31

Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on October 5, 2019.