"I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” -John 16:33
Just a few weeks ago, I had found myself wandering towards my campus' Perpetual Adoration chapel on my way to the building of my next class. It wasn't until the chapel was in sight, that I realized my Lord was pushing for a conversation with me. As I knelt before him, I let it all out— my discouragement over my lack of progress in conquering bad habits, my fear that I was failing to live up to others' expectations of me, as well my most brooding concern:
Lord, all I wanted to accomplish this semester was to finally stop living like I am hanging on a thread just to keep up... so I can finally embrace time with my fullest potential as a more consistent disciple of Yours. But it seems like I have never done worse, and all I can manage to give strength to are my weaknesses. I know I need to trust in You through everything, but what more can You do when I keep missing every opportunity You're giving me?
Unfortunately, as I left the chapel, the only thing it seemed I took with me was this sense of time lost, accompanied by a series of dark, negative thoughts.
"You're so pathetic, Rachel. When have you ever gotten it right?" the Enemy hissed, in a voice disguised as my own, "No wonder nobody likes you— you don't even like yourself."
But suddenly, a voice spoke up. This was the voice of a woman who knew, deep down, that she was loved because of who she is. And that no deed, no perception another person held of her, could overwrite the innate worth of her true identity. And she answered, "No, it's not me that I dislike— it's the choices I'm making... I deserve better."
Instantly, I knew that this concise truth was His answer. Had I not taken the time to present my concerns to Him just minutes before, I probably would have simply been left with questions. Yet, this truth now flourished before my own eyes, illuminating the hidden way in which it manifests in our lives.
See, as beloved children of God, what we all ultimately deserve is to choose Him.
Through His sacrifice, He has already chosen an eternal union with us, and now He invites each of us to choose Him. With this choice comes the destination for which He created us. However, this choice involves a journey of many baby steps, while life often conceals the joyful glory of being His.
And all of the diversions of temporal happiness can seem so appealing. They personate our destination, luring us away from chances to strengthen our willpower for the rest of the journey. And before long, we have fallen into a spiral of pursuing happiness from a new source, once the previous ones have disintegrated. We remember— we deserve better. But we have forgotten— we are not home.
Often, what we want is less than what we deserve.
Whether it's as simple as me, wanting to waste time on the Internet, instead of allowing myself some extra hours to comprehend something profound in my assigned Shakespeare readings. Or whether it is a more complex situation, such as you idly wishing that the things you cannot change were better, easier, and happier, instead of embracing the chance to grow. Regardless of the circumstances, we regularly confuse what we want at a certain point in our lives with what we deserve.
I just finished a production of Into The Woods, and I will always remember how this particular line, spoken by the Narrator at the end of Act I, really made me think:
"Those who deserved to were certain to live a long and happy life.”
I think this statement precisely summarizes many misconceptions we have about our existences. Because it is blatantly untrue— both in the context of the story and in real life itself—for two reasons:
1. As you may have surmised from above, everyone deserves more than a long and happy life. But if we, like the characters in the show, place our hopes in temporal matters, even after our wishes are granted, we will eventually hit a wall, an Inigo Montoya stage. We will feel dissatisfied with life, restlessly looking for new goals to keep us occupied.
Why? Because it is in our nature to strive towards something. And until we decide to make that "something" an eternal union with God, our pursuits of happiness will merely remain vicious cycles, and our goals and dreams will die with us. This world is not meant to satisfy us. For if obtaining perfect wealth, success, and contentment were life’s purpose, then would God deny Himself of these luxuries? If suffering were so worthless, then why would Jesus accept it in His own life? Why, He did so for the same reason that we should— to demolish the barriers that separate Him from humanity. And His Resurrection grants us hope, which averts our gazes to what we truly deserve, guiding us to pursue it.
2. Good deeds do not guarantee anyone a long and happy life. Hope clarifies that our life situations are not indications of whether or not we have favor with God; while suffering may be a side-effect of one’s wrongdoing, it is not a fatal punishment for it. Furthermore, hope gives purpose to suffering, empowering us to overcome hardships without avoiding or opposing them. It presents every situation as an opportunity, rather than a fulfillment or an absence of happiness. Hope celebrates loss in its ability to grant something greater, giving failure the power to be triumphant. Hope recognizes that even when it is invisible, the truth is still prevailing.
So no matter what is occuring in your life, do not despair, do not sell yourself short! Remember: you are loved, and you deserve better.
"They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” -Revelations 7:16-17