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On Faith: Carrying our crosses

"If you seek to carry no other crosses but those whose reason you understand, (spiritual) perfection is not for you."

The above quote is from one of the great saints and theologians in the history of the Catholic Church, St. Teresa of Avila.

St. Teresa, a Carmelite nun who lived in Spain during the 16th century, had a way with words, getting right to the heart of the matter in short order. I chose this quote from her because it follows upon our Lord's challenge in the Gospel: That in this earthly life, following him means being willing to take up our own crosses and bear them patiently and lovingly.

As Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, verse 23: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

In her quote above, St. Teresa hits upon a common human temptation. When we encounter difficulty, pain, hardship or suffering in our lives — our "crosses" — we are often tempted to demand to know why this is happening to us.

It is a common temptation of the evil one to try to tell us that God has a duty to explain himself. There is always a temptation to blame God for our suffering. After all, we tell ourselves, he could have prevented it. We might say, "Why doesn't God do something to stop my suffering, or the suffering of my loved one?"

Indeed, that question of "why" is perhaps one of the most haunting and difficult of life's questions.

And at this moment, when we are asking "why" in regard to a particular struggle or difficulty that we are facing in our lives, that we will have to make a decision that will have a profound impact on our spiritual development. Will we trust God that what he allows in our lives, he allows for a reason?

The point of the quote from St. Teresa is that our job is not to always understand the crosses that we experience in our lives; indeed, such is simply not always possible.

Our job is to try to trust God in the midst of our crosses; to trust that he is walking through our pain and suffering with us, and that he is more than able to bring good out of even the direst situations. As St. Paul instructs us in his letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 28: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

Now, trusting that God knows much better than we do what is best for us is not easy. But it is necessary for deep growth in our friendship with God. Often, a child must trust his or her parent that the pain being inflicted by a doctor who is giving them their shots, or by the dentist who is removing a tooth, is necessary for their greater health.

Parents ask their children to trust them all the time, even and especially when the child does not understand why. Our relationship with God is no different.

God loves us unconditionally, totally and completely, and he is 100 percent trustworthy. We may not always know why we encounter the difficulties that we do in our lives, but we do know that God can be trusted to help us through it and to bring even greater good from it.

God bless you.

"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.