A caller calls in on a Catholic talk show: “My husband left me 9 months ago. I have 4 children. He left me for another woman. I’ve been going to church and have gone to Confession because I’ve been having a very hard time with the feelings of bitterness that have been welling up inside me. And as hard as I try not to feel any kind of hatred, it’s been difficult…. But my children have turned away from the Church and it especially hurts me. And I’ve been praying to both Mother Mary and to Jesus and to any saints that I can think of that might be able to help, but I really… need something…. I don’t know what else I can do… I don’t really feel hatred – I have said, “I could forgive my husband for this.” I asked him back several times – he wasn’t interested – he’s now suing me for divorce. But my concern is with my children and the fact that they are turning away from God.”
What would you say to her? What would you say to any friend who’s in difficulty: the friend who’s lost a job, who has just broken up after a relationship, who has a child who is badly sick or lost, worried about an exam, or making a choice?
There are many answers, depending on who the person is and what the person is struggling with. I just want to focus on one answer, suggested by today’s first reading. When the Hebrew people are literally starving in the desert, they complain against God. And He brings them relief. But not the relief we might expect. He doesn’t fix their problem once and for all, but gives them relief one day at a time. He gives them food, but not enough food to store away for the future, but just enough for that day. Pay attention to the words of God: “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day” (Ex 16:4).
One mother I know who was struggling with a situation similar to the woman on the talk show told me that she lives day by day trusting in God. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen to her daughter who’s very sick, so she focuses just on today.
This reading spoke to me in a similar way because it helped me make sense of my own drawn-out struggles. I really don’t know what’s going to happen in this or that situation or to this or that person, and I want a long-term solution. After praying over this reading, I saw that God was asking me to live on His daily bread. He gives me enough strength for today and that helps me get through my current pain.
Now, we all ask: why does God do this? Why not solve our problems once and for all? (For the sake of today’s homily, let’s not focus on why God allows suffering, but on why He often gives us only our daily bread and not more.)
The answer is because one of the most important things to learn in life is to trust in God. Hear me out. If all our problems were solved instantaneously, we would continue to live out the belief that most of us have: that we don’t need God, that everything is up to us, or that, if He is there, then He doesn’t take care of us. The real reason we worry is because we actually don’t believe God will take care of us. We have doubts that our Father will work out everything in the future.
The argument that many people offer is this: “If God is good, He’ll tell me right now how things will work out.” The counter-argument, one based on faith, is: “Because God is good, I’m not worried about how He’ll solve everything in the future; I know He will.” Do you see the difference between these two arguments? The first one says, “If God is good,” because it doubts. It has to see the solution right now because deep down it doesn’t have certainty that God will come through. The second one says, “Because God is good.” This one knows God’s goodness and trusts Him. Because it knows God will provide a solution, it doesn’t even worry about how things will work out; it knows they will.
Imagine a four-year-old tossing and turning in bed, anxious, stressed out, his mind spinning a hundred miles an hour over how he’s going to pay the heating bill, buy groceries, and pay the mortgage. He can’t sleep. The next morning he gets up, goes to the playground, and his buddies on monkey bars say, “Johnny… you look tired, what’s going on?” He says, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to pay the heating bill, I don’t know how to drive to the grocery store and get groceries, I don’t know how I’m going to pay the mortgage.” His friends, confused at what they hear, look at each other and say in a matter-of-fact way, “Johnny… our dad does that for us. Our mom does that for us.” These children don’t worry about tomorrow because they have this obvious confidence that their parents will provide today (Fr. Thomas Richter, Trust in the Lord, Track 8, 0:10).
This is one of the biggest jumps all of us can make. We can go fom, “I don’t know how this will work out” to “My Dad and Mom do that for me.” We can go from, “If God is good, then…” to, “Because God is good, then…” This choice can be made every single day. And that’s why God allows it, so that we do make this choice every day and come to know it in our hearts. And that’s when life gets better.
I’m not saying it’s easy! It is hard! Trust me, I know! I didn’t sleep well two nights ago. I don’t always experience immediate relief, but I always experience grace, some gift from God that’s enough for a few minutes, and that’s better than continually being focused on the pain.
The woman we talked about at the beginning of the homily got this reply from the priest (Msgr. William B. Smith) on the talk show, who used an image I’ve never forgotten: he said it’s day by day; we’ve got this gigantic log that no one can pick up, but when we cut the log up into tiny bits, little chips, we can pick it up and carry it. So we don’t have to think too far in advance how this is going to work out. We just have to cut it down to today and focus on Jesus today.
Remember Clayton Imoo’s story? He failed his CA exam three times, and couldn’t see what would happen in his life, but God redirected him. Remember the mother who had three children out of wedlock? She said she didn’t know how things would work out, but God gave her a wonderful husband and her second child became a priest. Remember Jeanne who was pregnant, the boyfriend left her and she was left alone with her baby? Her father said, “Jeanne, we’re going to make this scar into a star.” She said, “So the girl who thought no one could ever love her because she had a baby, got married and lived happily ever after. We celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year with all of our 8 children.” Remember how I got beaten up and God used it to do something better? Do you want me to bore you with more stories, or do you get my point?
Let’s ask ourselves these questions: is Jesus good? What does the evidence tell us? According to the Scriptures, is Jesus good? Next: have we ever seen miracles in our lives? I have. Have we ever experienced relief before? Have we ever experienced His love and care? If we have, then great! If not, we will! Because He loves us. We’ll experience it today, because God loves you so much! Just talking about this is already daily bread for me. Just being here celebrating Mass and being with you is a daily bread for me. Let’s pray today (and this is something we can repetitively pray through the day), “Jesus, because you’re so good, I know everything will work out.” God gives us enough for today.