By Amber Kinloch
The pull to discouragement is one of the most insidious temptations. Discouragement (a form of pride) is, on one hand, a remarkably common thing. Everyone has felt discouraged at some point or other in their lives. Depending on your temperament, it might even be an everyday temptation.
On the other hand, discouragement, left unchecked, can lay havoc to your entire life. Such has been the case for me of late.
The weeks immediately following my dad’s death back in February were incredible. I’ve never experienced such a torrent of grace as I did in those weeks. Cards, calls, and visitors flooded our home, and I could go almost nowhere, it seemed, without being noticed. Time for sleep, prayer, exercise, and self care was in short supply. A flood of urgent matters had to be attended to, everything from funeral arrangements to contacting business clients, processing paperwork, paying regular bills, and doing chores. It looked like a recipe for disaster.
It wasn’t. I was full of energy, alive, smiling. My gaze fixated outward on all the shocked, grieving people questioning how the apparent disaster of my dad’s death could have happened. I felt like St. Peter, walking on the waves, upheld by a grace beyond comprehension (Matthew 14:22-33).
Such went the first few weeks. Then normal life resumed. Except it wasn’t normal.
Life goes on, but it’s quieter now within the four walls of our home. There’s no Dad running up and down our stairs as I sit here typing in our living room. There are no passing chats throughout the day, no long, wide-ranging conversations at night. There are no more early morning gatherings, no Dad telling me “Don’t forget your phone” as I head out the door. Nor is he here to help me if something breaks or I want advice or encouragement. I have to go to someone else or take care of a problem myself (and being me, it’s likely the latter).
I’ve also struggled to get back on track spiritually. “Tomorrow” has been the thought in my mind as I neglect, once again, to pray before bed. “Tomorrow, I’ll do better,” I promise myself as I indulge in an excess of sweets or squander another hour on the Internet. “It’s already late. There’s no point trying today.”
Discouragement built as I persisted in my sins despite going to Confession regularly. Good habits I’d developed over the years eroded away and seemed like too much work to recultivate. A horrible melancholy lay hold of me. I needed to try harder. But I didn’t want to.
Still, God sustained me. He’s treated me mercifully, reaching out every day through people, events, books, beauty, the sacraments, and more. I’ve felt Him dog my steps like the Hound of Heaven even when I just want to be left alone in my misery. Slowly, now, I’m turning back. No extraordinary event has occasioned this “conversion.” Simply Christ’s presence and relentless pursuit of me until I at last am choosing to turn to Him and accept the grace He’s been offering me these past few months.
It is not easy. I’ve learned again of late how selfish I can be and how attached I am to comfort and pleasure. Yet Christ stands by me saying He wants it all. But how can I give it to Him?
It’s now that I’m reminded of St. Peter. At the Last Supper, Peter promised Jesus: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” (Luke 22:33). Yet Peter is to be found nowhere near the Cross. He doesn’t even just flee as the other Apostles (excepting St. John) do—he publicly denies Christ three times, swearing he does not know Him even after Jesus warns him that he will do this (Matthew 26:69-75). Poor Peter! Was there ever such a lamentable fall?
Peter, of course, professes his love for Our Lord three times by the lake. Jesus then tells Him: “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me” (John 21:15-19).
Christ foretells that Peter will suffer martyrdom for Him—and Peter does. Not that day; Peter wasn’t ready. Eventually, though, he does.
What an encouragement for you and me! Perhaps we will not give Christ everything (or anything even close to it) anytime soon. But can we at least give Him something even if it’s just five minutes of our undivided attention? What if we do so again tomorrow and the next day and the next until it becomes habitual and we’re prepared to offer a little more?
One thing is certain: We will go nowhere if we do not act. And we will not act if we’re overcome by discouragement.
Let us cast out discouragement. It is like a bad slave master that will slowly scourge us to death. Let us go to Christ as we are and offer Him our proud, selfish, wounded selves, begging Him to be patient with us as He was with Peter and to help us rise and continue on our course. He will surely hear us if we are only sincere.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.