Richer By Far (CV Era) – Loneliness As a Navigational Aid To God

“If [as the Burt Bacharach song says] Loneliness Remembers (what happiness forgets) then the emptiness of loneliness reminds me of what happiness does not remind me of. That God is more, is greater, fuller – limitless, even. When I am spent He is still full and longing for me to turn, in my vulnerability and scatteredness, to His vast heart of loving provision for my soul. When I feel forsaken and alone – in those moments – I am gifted with an innate holy prodding to submit to no other substitute for satisfaction or comfort. So as great as happiness is in its moment, loneliness by contrast, is not a dead end. It is a navigational aid.”  Jennifer @ blogspot

“Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clichés, it would be time to call in the undertaker…. So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life.”  … “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”  Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.”
Psalm 69:20

  • Many people run from problems like loneliness, depression, and despair. Can you imagine these unwanted feelings as a kind of unexpected or disguised gift?
  • Have you ever allowed loneliness, depression or despair to be a “navigational aid” to lead you to God? What exactly would that look like for you?
  • Can you see “downward mobility” in all of this – that what seems painful and frustrating might actually be beneficial? …that “downward mobility” might be far superior to “upward mobility?”

Abba, remind me when this happens to me.

For More: No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton

Song for the day: It Is Well With My Soul

Daily Riches: Depression and Darkness As Alarms (Thomas Moore and Lee Stringer)

“Are you going to become cynical and depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night and summer and winter?” Thomas Moore

“It helps to clear out the theories and dogmas you picked up from your family, school, and religious upbringing. To be an independent and mature adult, you may have to dump all kinds of things that get in the way. Then your thoughts and judgments become leaner and clearer. You realize that much of what has preoccupied you is not essential. You can live happily and sensuously in this rich and promising world without being caught up in many of its dehumanizing values and empty distractions. The writer Lee Stringer tells the passionate story of his life on the streets of New York, where he was hooked on alcohol, cocaine, and crack. He had gone through a highly disillusioning failure with an import company and took to living on the streets. Eventually he discovered that he could write. He began writing for a newspaper for street people and soon became its editor. Then he went on to write bestselling books. Reflecting on his experience, he says that he could have gotten back on his feet through professional help, but he believes in learning through ‘hard knocks.’ His conclusion could well be a summary of this book. ‘It has occurred to me since that perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder at all but, like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alerting us that something is undoubtedly wrong; that perhaps it is time to stop, take a time-out, take as long as it takes, and attend to the unaddressed business of filling our souls.’ Here is a key idea: stop thinking of your dark nights as problems and begin to see them as opportunities for change.” Thomas Moore

“I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.”
Psalm 69:2 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you think of darkness and light an normal, inevitable parts of life?
  • Is there an “alarm of sorts” going off in your life? Are you attending to it?
  • After reading the longer quote, what are you hearing in the shorter one?

Abba, in the depths, I am remade. I find myself–and at last, a “heft of soul.” (Moore)

For More: The Dark Nights Of The Soul by Thomas Moore

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Daily Riches: Daily Emotions . . . They Come Bearing Gifts (William Britton)

“I feel hungry, but really it’s thirst.
I feel tired, but really it’s hunger.
I feel like I’m dying, but I’m not
like I’m forsaken, but I’m not.
It seems things will never change
but they will.
–Loneliness passes.
–Sadness ends.
–Confusion clears.
–Depression lifts.
–Love returns.
–Lust slithers off.
I often can’t trust my feelings,
but my feelings have a lot to teach me
if only I will learn from them.

It’s like with my eyes.
I see the sun “rise and set.”
I see “color.”
As I lift my eyes
I see the edge of the world.
I often can’t trust my eyes
but my eyes have a lot to teach me
if only I will really see with them.

My ears fool me too.
I hear sounds that aren’t,
and miss sounds that are.
I misunderstand the words.
I filter out, not just the noise,
but the beauty in the background.
I often can’t trust my ears,
but my ears have a lot to teach me
if only I will really hear with them.

I often can’t trust my eyes, my ears, or my feelings,
but each of them have a lot to teach me.
They come bearing gifts
if only I will welcome those gifts.”

William Britton

“A fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.”
Proverbs 14:16b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you afraid to really feel your emotions because you’ll be overwhelmed, or misled? Why do you suppose God gave you emotions?
  • Can you attempt to learn from your emotions? . . . to listen to what they’re telling you? Can you ask, “What does this emotional response say about me?”
  • Can you imagine Jesus without emotions? Who would want that? And who wants an unemotional you?

Abba, I’m glad that I can feel love, joy, grief, loneliness–even guilt and shame. They each make me “more.” They each teach me. You speak to me in each.

For More: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

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Daily Riches: Music–The Best Therapy (William Cowper, Teresa of Avila, William and Randy Peterson)

“William Cowper, whose poems appear in most collections of great English literature, was beset with emotional problems throughout his life. His mother died when he was six, at school he was teased and ridiculed, and his father prevented him from marrying the girl he loved. Forced to study law, he panicked when he learned he would have his bar exam before the House of Lords–and tried to commit suicide. After a year in an insane asylum, he was released into the care of a Christian couple. It seemed that hymnwriting was the best therapy Cowper could get. But mental illness continued to plague the poet, and he frequently lapsed into deep depression. You can almost see his self-portrait [below] in the ‘fearful saints’ who need to take ‘fresh courage’ in the future blessings of God. Intellectually he knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” William and Randy Peterson

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

“Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

William Cowper

“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away. God never changes.
Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”
— St. Teresa of Avila, from her bookmark

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 62:5-6

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Both Cowper and Teresa are “talking to themselves”–like the psalmist. Do you talk to yourself? What do you say?
  • “Intellectually [Cowper] knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” Isn’t that often our experience as well? And what would you say was the truth of those lines?
  • The story refuses a typical happy ending. Cowper still suffered. He still struggled. Is there space in your view of the life of faith for that? …for people like that? …for yourself, when you’re like that?

Abba, thank you for the therapy of music.

For More: The One Year Book of Hymns, edited by Brown and Norton

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Elusive Joy (James Martin, Donald Salier, Henri Nouwen and Peter Kreeft)

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Ernest Hemingway
“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”  Mark Twain

“Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. …Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event…. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.” Henri NoJoyuwen

“Joy is not simply a fleeting feeling or an evanescent emotion; it is a deep-seated result of one’s connection to God. …Joy has an object and that object is God. …Joy is a fundamental disposition toward God … [having] ability to exist even in the midst of suffering, because joy has less to do with emotion and more to do with belief. It does not ignore pain in the world, in another’s life, or in one’s own life…. Rather, it goes deeper seeing confidence in God–and for Christians, in Jesus Christ–as the reason for joy and a constant source of joy.” James Martin and Donald Salier

“He came. He entered space and time and suffering. He came, like a lover. Love seeks above all intimacy, presence, togetherness. Not happiness. ‘Better unhappy with her than happy without her’–that is the word of a lover. He came. That is the salient fact, the towering truth…. He came. Job is satisfied even though the God who came gave him absolutely no answers at all to his thousand tortured questions. He did the most important thing and he gave the most important gift: himself. It is a lover’s gift. Out of our tears, our waiting, our darkness, our agonized aloneness, out of our weeping and wondering, out of our cry …he came, all the way, right into that cry.” Peter Kreeft

“consider it all joy”  James 1:2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you “choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise?”
  • What might happen, if in spite of the world’s pain, you adopt a “fundamental disposition” of confidence in God?
  • What might happen, if in spite of your “thousand tortured questions” you experience the gift of God’s presence?

Abba, may our connection lead to fullness of joy in me.

For More: Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Suffering and Grace (Jim Palmer)

“I used to be ashamed of my depression,

but now I see it’s a secret trapdoor to God. When it hits, I sink down into that black hole and often find Jesus there. … now when I am asked [who Jesus is], I am most inclined to say, ‘Jesus is the one who sits down close to me in my black hole of despair, offering himself until it passes.’” Jim Palmer

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”] away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have some weakness, hardship, persecution or difficulty that causes you to sink down into a “black hole of despair?”
  • Can you imagine Jesus “sitting down close to you” in that dark, painful place and “offering himself until it passes?” Do that now.
  • We often despise our weaknesses, and ourselves for being weak, but the apostle Paul says he is glad for his weaknesses and delights in his difficulties. The next time you visit your own painful “black hole” of trouble, can you wait there for God to make himself known to you in a new and saving way?

Abba, thank you for desiring to make yourself known to me in the midst of my most painful experiences. Help me to notice, to listen and learn, to submit, to give thanks, to be comforted, to be changed.

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For More: Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God by Jim Palmer

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The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to provide you with something of uncommon value each day in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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