Ghostly Counsel

Being divided

Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House

These are challenging times spiritually for orthodox Anglicans. It becomes difficult to think, or pray. Normal patterns are disrupted and symptoms of emotional and physical stress begin to eat away at well-being and confidence. Now is a time 'to things eternal look.' It is a time for raw faith - believing obedience. It is a time to come close to Jesus and stay by him.

In all the confusion it is his body that is being wounded, his word and example rejected, and his name used in vain. Jesus is not distant from us in this mess - he is to be found in it.

As with most challenges on the walk of discipleship, there is no way around - there is only through. But we move forward knowing that the Lord is a faithful guardian and guide.

This is a time for honest prayer - tell the Lord how you feel. He desires that we draw near to him in our confusion and grief. It is a waste of time to be anything else but honest. Let the Psalms help you express raw emotion and spiritual confusion.

Remember that in the Psalms we pray in, with and through Jesus who is both their prayer and their fulfilment. Psalm 37 is a good place to start.

In looking at Jesus we must look at his example of patient suffering, of continuous prayer to the Father, of living always in the truth and being always ready to forgive. We must not pass on our hurt and bitterness; we must share it with him who endured all these things for our salvation. We must not doubt that in all this there is a call to holiness.

We must also be obedient to Jesus' commands: 'love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and spitefully use you.' We must seek the change of heart we pray for in the Lord's Prayer: 'forgive us our sins as we forgive them who sin against us.' This is for many of us a time of trial and we must ask for grace not to fall short.

It is time to live in the victory of Jesus - to place our heart 'where he is' - the reigning Lord of all. We must live in hope and trust in the promise that 'all things work for good for those who love him.' It is difficult to see what God is doing in the present, and impossible to see the future, but we can learn from God's mercies in the past and we can take comfort in his word not to worry about tomorrow, 'for today has trouble enough of its own.'

I find this prayer of Thomas Merton a great help:

'Lord, I do not know where I am going, neither do I know the way, neither do I know myself. All I do know is the desire to please you does in fact please you, and I pray that I will have this desire in everything I do; for if I do you will lead me by the right path (even if I do not know it) - even if it passes through the shadow of death; for you are with me, my guide and my comfort still. Amen.'

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