In this time of fear and uncertainty amidst an unprecedented pandemic that is sweeping throughout the world, many questions are swirling around in the minds of so many. Why is this happening? Will life ever be normal again?
It is precisely in this hour of crisis that we as believers look eagerly to our faith for answers. In the Christian tradition, we can turn to one of the many great spiritual masters, Father Jean Pierre De Caussade and his masterpiece, “Abandonment to Divine Providence”. While a preeminent classic, the work is sometimes difficult to navigate. And so, we can also turn to a condensed and synthesized collection of its wisdom in the book “Be Not Troubled: A Six-Day Retreat with Fr. Jean Pierre De Caussade” by Father Jeffrey Kirby.
In these times, there are three main reflections drawn from these works that can offer us peace and comfort:
God is the great I AM.
The Lord God said “I AM.” He did not say “I was” or “I will be.” Too often we get caught up in worrying about what has happened in the past, or what will happen in the future. We become preoccupied over things outside of our control.
God dwells forever in the present. He does not live in the past or reside in the future. If we want to be with him, we must discipline ourselves to live in the present moment. When we dwell upon the past, or future, we miss God in the one place where we can encounter Him – the present moment.
Surrender to Divine Providence
Our encounter with God in the here and now opens up for us a powerful channel of grace. The future and the past contain no grace, which is why thoughts of them can be so heavy or stressful. The grace to accept them isn’t there. Grace is with God, in the present moment. Such grace strengthens our prayer life because we are communicating with Him in the sacrament of the present moment. It strengthens our sense of peace and purpose because we are in His presence in each moment, as it unfolds according to His will. Trustful surrender becomes a sacrifice of our will to God’s Providence that leads to acceptance, freedom, and peace. This translates to selfless and loving service.
Virtue in the Here and Now
What does all of this look like in our present crisis? We accept that God is the great I AM, know that He is with us in every moment, and surrender with trust to Him. We do not obsess on the life we once had or on the future life we hope is restored. We live here and now. We are with God and so draw upon his grace that is freely given in order to exercise virtue. And so, kindness, patience with one another, sacrificial service in helping one another are all ways in which we can reach out within the safety of quarantine and social distancing.
It is in trying to live this spiritual wisdom of Father Jean-Pierre De Caussade, thoroughly mined and broken down by Father Jeffrey Kirby, that powerful holiness can be drawn from our encounter with God in the present moment. Our trustful abandonment to divine Providence dispels fear and allows grace to abound.
Submitted by Carole King, a Secular Franciscan from Aiken, S.C.