Honestly, this idea has felt laughable, and I’m sure many of you can relate. How is God’s answer “I have something better,” when a loved one is living with chronic pain and you’ve been asking Him again and again to relieve them? How is God’s answer “I have something better” when we lose a job, a friend, or simply keep hitting the same walls over and over again? For me, for several years, the repetitive situation was my experience of depression. I’ve been a fairly anxious person my whole life, and prone to a few depressive dips, but it wasn’t until college that I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. My experience of those conditions has really messed with my relationship with God at several points. I can say bluntly that for several years, I never knew how to pray except from a place of desperation. A lot of my prayers, the times of Eucharistic adoration, conferences and retreats I have attended, were focused on begging God to take away the endless circles my mind ran in.
The root of this problem goes back to the Garden of Eden. (Doesn’t everything, though?) In the midst of all the “you should eat the fruit” conversation, Satan was trying to convince Adam and Eve of one major thing: this God who put you here is not good. If he was, why would he keep this good thing from you?” The first humans fell for it. They doubted. And so goes the rest of history. We live with this nagging question of “Is God really good like He says He is?” When we’re in difficult situations, the question looms even heavier. This is made worse by the popular, well-meant sentiment that “It’s a part of God’s plan.” Doesn’t that just seal the deal? Guess what, God wants you to suffer! All for the good of some cosmic mystery you may never understand!
While it is true that God can use our suffering for good in the world if we let Him, this should never be confused with the idea that He somehow caused the horrible circumstances we’re in for the good of an abstract plan. That would make us mere pawns in His end game. The verse that can cause some confusion surrounding this idea is Romans 8:28: “All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” If we read this the wrong way, we can come to think that God caused various things for the good of His plan. But that’s not the point here. Rather, God can take any circumstance we’re in and make good come from it. But he’s not up in heaven saying “You! I’m going to give you cancer for the good of salvation history!” Fr. Mike Schmitz says it wonderfully; our suffering was never God’s Plan A. He permits things to happen as a result of the laws of nature, physics, and free will, but does not desire that terrible things happen to people.
What does he want, then? Wholeness. Healing. Freedom. We pray in the Our Father, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” There is no sickness, no mental and emotional illness, no chronic pain in Heaven. So if we’re serious about making “Thy kingdom come,” we have to claim Jesus’ authority to cure the sick and bind up the brokenhearted. That’s why we’ve been having these healing services and encounters with the Holy Spirit over the last year. Whether you need chronic back pain healed, want to move past blocks of anger or unforgiveness in your heart, or simply want to ask the Holy Spirit what’s next for you, these nights are an opportunity to see God’s Kingdom come to Earth.
So, back to the beginning: begging God in prayer. I’ve experienced healing over time through therapy, and I have experienced healing in prayer. The greatest healing is still taking place in me, the restoration of my mindset to know and believe that God is good and wants good things for me. There is no five-step process toward praying confidently and knowing God is who He says He is. We just have to start going to Him and expecting that because we are His sons and daughters, He will respond. Good fathers love to give their children gifts. Every encounter night, every retreat, and truly every day is a chance to ask God “what do you have for me next?” It’s not on us to bring about our own wholeness. It’s on God, and we can rest confidently in the knowledge that every time we come to Him, He has something waiting for us.