Our lives are not just influenced by our physical environment. We have a soul that craves to be filled.
If we leave out God, our souls are filled with the junk food of consumerism or entertainment. These things, like candy to the body that craves nourishing foods, will fill it up and keep it quiet for a time.
But it begins to starve to death. And it cries all the louder for attention.
The meat necessary to give it nourishment is missing.
It begins to give up, and grows, fat and lazy, just as our bodies will do on a bad diet. Secretly, it longs for the nutrition that will make it, once more, healthy.
This is our daily plight.
It is a form of spiritual warfare. There is a very real war between denying our passions and accepting our difficulties.
It is a spiritual warfare. And it is found in the mind.
That is the line with which one of my little grandson’s begins nearly all his sentences.
In fact, it was the beginning of nearly every coworker’s sentence, especially in my most recent past, come to think of it.
“I want this program to look like this.” (In spite of the fact that it is nearly impossible to do with the given programs purchased for a completely different purpose that the request.)
“I want him to shut up…her to do her work…him to stay out of my business…her to stop telling me what to do, even though she’s in charge of the project…team activities to be my way…the boss to stop being so demanding (even though they are simply trying to get you to do your job)…” The list could go on ad nauseum.
Those two words, “I want”, speak volumes about someone’s head space. No matter who they are. No matter what position they hold in life.
The battle lines…
The first step toward resolving a problem, my father always told me, is to recognize you have one.
The problem with the problems is that most people don’t recognize they have a problem! They see everyone else’s, but never their own.
So they continue living their lives in completely ignorant bliss, annoying everyone around them.
Worse, they become so anxious about everyone else’s problems, that a gnawing discomfort grows exponentially within their soul.
And their heart. And their mind.
Everything that happens is an affront to their very existence. It is uncomfortable. And they don’t like it.
So they lay blame on everyone/everything else.
Or they see problems where none exist because they believe that tattling on someone else will make themselves feel better.
But neither of those courses solve their inner turmoil. They just become more and more bitter.
If a person finds himself becoming less and less at peace, the first solution toward resolving the issue is to recognize it is happening.
Problems rarely develop in a vacuum.
If peace shakes a person’s core, the first step to take isn’t to blame someone else, or even God. It is to recognize it exists deep within.
The second step is to find out what little tape is replaying in their head, over and over again. Usually it is from someone else telling them about themselves, or a habit formed in their past that hasn’t been resolved.
They feel out of control with a situation they currently find themselves in, or a trigger from a passing, even innocent, comment made by another.
And they can’t control it. So they turn outside themselves to find a resolution.
Surely it couldn’t be them!
Someone else trying to destroy people’s peace are those who enjoy making everyone around them fearful. About anything. It is a form of psychological control.
It comes in the form of constant feeding on the media, decisions and decrees of governmental bodies, even demands made by people in our neighborhood who want something from you that you have a right to possess.
The situation or the comment isn’t the root cause. The reaction is a symptom to something far deeper.
Finding the root…
Most of the time, it is a belief about the circumstance that bumps up against one’s desires. The preoccupation with self will cloud our judgement of reality. And it prevents us from doing what we intend. So it thwarts our personal efforts.
At other times, it is a trigger allowed to run rampant in our hearts and minds. It continues unabated, and builds with every other situation or word that just multiplies the problems.
Anything and everything can be the trigger.
But a trigger is not the root cause.
Learning to recognize the trigger is the first step toward addressing the problem.
The battle is in the mind. It is a battle about thoughts.
The secret to winning the entire war is to continually “take thoughts captive” and turn them toward something better.
If the thoughts are something we have control over, then we need to resolve the trigger. Work through the hurt, pain, manipulation.
Whatever is in our past is keeping us chained to that same response every…single…time.
If the thoughts are rooted in past experience, then those painful, past realities need to be faced and rooted out. It may take the help of a friend, professional counseling, or the spiritual assistance of priestly guidance. Whatever the opportunity, finding a sense of peace inside is well worth the effort.
Especially if the problem is serious and/or has been going on for a very long time unresolved.
The other side of the coin might, however be, that there is a need for control. Perhaps past situations created a sense of poor self-worth.
In either instance, it is a lack of real love. A love for which we all long. We haven’t received, And we want it to fill us with a sense of purpose.
That poverty of real Love in our culture thrives on putting down others so we feel superior to them. It does whatever it can to destroy a perceived enemy so that we think we can rise above them.
But another person will never threaten us, intentionally or innocently, if we know, without any shadow of a doubt, that we are Loved.
In both cases, there is a spiritual component to them. There is a need to either avoid or control.
For most of us, it is the everyday annoyances that cause is to lose it. The constant drone of gossip, or the continual hopelessness spouted from every media outlet for the sake of ratings destroys our inner peace.
It is whatever occupies the mind through the eyes and ears that feeds our inner soul.
And we cannot hope to gain inner peace when we are constantly having to battle those pesky flies in our head.
We are being selfish when we continue to avoid what is important – our spiritual life – and fill it with YouTube videos, the latest news cast, even seemingly “good” spiritual “prophecies” that reinforce things of our interest.
The spiritual side is left in the dust because it pales in comparison to our own interests.
Self-centeredness becomes our driving force.
We seek peace. And we try to find a way to achieve it on our own. Even reaching out to so-called “experts” to regain that inner peace.
Or do things for others, but not without altruistic intentions. All, selfishly, to gain our own inner peace.
To simply reach out to others serves no purpose if we haven’t the means to do so. That would be like trying to feed a starving man when our cupboards are bare.
We need to fill ourselves. We need to feed our souls with good nourishment.
And we need to stop filling our minds with things less noble than enjoying the simple beauty of silence.
Listen to nature and watch the sun rise. Read inspiring spiritual works.
And, above all, seek to know the God who created each one of us.
It is He alone who knows what you are missing. And He truly Loves each one of us.
His love is so deep, so profound. And He gives freely of this love to each of us if we but let go of the reigns.
He alone knows how you think, how you were created. And He alone can fill that emptiness deep within.
Seeking the Source of True Peace…
When we become curious about the One who knows us better than our parents, spouse, or best friend, then He will begin to do His work within us.
At first it will seem exciting and the drive to drink from the newfound fountain of spiritual knowledge becomes an obsession. And the more we ask for Him to show Himself to us and prove His Love for us, the more it will fall in our lap.
Every time. Without fail.
Then it will become difficult, and all that fresh, new-found happiness will become dry and stale. The testing will begin.
But if we keep our eyes on our first Love, a strange thing happens.
As difficult as any situation is, and as much as we slip and fall because we seek to regain the habit of control, if we continually try to keep our eyes on God, an inner joy in the midst of every sorrow emerges.
The further along your spiritual walk you go, the deeper that unexplainable, profound joy grows. It doesn’t matter the circumstances.
There is no human being who can teach this to you. No one who experiences this can even express what this looks like.
It is completely personal, completely unique.
God knows each one of us, and He knows the key to unlock that source of joy and subsequent peace that will fill our very being. Uniquely to us.
It is a promise that never goes unfulfilled. Ever.
But we first must be willing to remove the obstacles.
Any time we put something ahead of this progress, the slower it will go. And the more disheartening it will become.
The battle is in the mind. The choices we make to feed our spiritual selves will have a great impact on that progress.
If we are afraid of missing out on the latest newscast of our heroes and villains in the world today, do not fear. If it is something important, and it will have a direct impact on your life, God will not leave you blindsided.
I saw it in the Saints, like St. Padre Pio. It is something to which I can attest. When I put aside my preoccupation with politics and stressors our world gives every day, I can more clearly hear the voice of God within. If there is something I need to know, it is always shown.
Most of what is going on in the world today won’t have any direct bearing in our lives. It may distantly, or in our pocketbooks, but there is very little we can do about it. Having great concern over it all serves no purpose.
And being afraid of what might happen is foolish. It may never happen to you, so what’s the point of worrying?
History repeats itself a hundred times a day. But the only thing that matters is the present moment. Being anxious about what “might” happen or believing that an individual will come to save us from ourselves is foolish.
Instead, we must trust that whatever comes our way, comes because it is allowed to occur. Poverty, bad accidents, starvation, even death of a loved one has a purpose.
Nothing that happens will be more than we can handle. Even if it seems that way at times.
There are those who disagree that God will never give us more than we can handle. But those are from the same people who won’t let go of the reigns. They hold no trust but in their own abilities. And it is they whom we must ignore.
For the rest of us, the important thing is how we respond. Our mindset.
And how much we are willing to let go of what we cannot control.
Gaining inner peace…
When we find ourselves disturbed inside, we need to take time to recenter and refocus. It isn’t about us doing anything, as taught by so many self-professed experts of the day.
It is about letting go, realizing we DON’T have control. But One Who is greater does.
He controls the universe. And the kingdoms. We don’t.
Depending on His judgement for what is good for us (for even so called bad things are not given for evil, but for benefit) lifts that heavy burden off our shoulders. We can be free from concern of the outcome. God created the incident, so it is up to Him to take care of the outcome. And us.
When we begin to recognize that He is in charge, not us, we will gain His Shalom, His peace. It will fill our heads and our hearts. That peace that surpasses all understanding.
Give it all away…
And then we must give the suffering away. Give it back to Him. For by our co-joining our suffering with what He, a perfect man who never did anything wrong, endured for our sake, what we are enduring pales in comparison to His sacrifice.
What we suffer, placed at the foot of the Cross for someone else’s sake, perfects that suffering. Graces for the other flows. And they profit by our sacrifice.
With Grace, they, too, can change their own lives back to God.
Not by words. But by sacrifice. By our silent prayer for them.
It is suffering unwasted. And the understanding that the suffering we are now enduring for the sake of another is now a selfless act restores our peace.
Peace without understanding.
Ridiculed by the world.
Embraced by those who know the secret to inner peace.