During my morning commute I was reading a few pages of Father Jaques Philippe’s, Thirsting for Prayer. I came upon one of many striking truths in the book and thought how relevant it was for this season of Advent.
I hope you find my thoughts on it helpful.
He describes the experience in prayer when, far from feeling peace and rest from the anxieties, fears, disappointments and horror of our sins, we are flooded with the shameful sting of all of these with a particular acuity. This often discourages us from continuing or return to prayer.
Advent and Christmas as a whole can do the same. As we prepare to visit or host family, try to get the perfect presents without emptying our savings, keep our kids out of trouble during their winter break, etc., we find a lot of emotional, mental, and sometimes physical friction. There seems to be less room to breathe and more room for irritation and frustration.
Rather than feeling “tidings of comfort and joy” we feel anger and a host of other unpleasant emotions. Family members bring up past hurts or misunderstandings, work is busier than usual, and reflecting on the past year ensures us that we will receive coal in our stockings. Prayer can feel overwhelming because all of these anxieties seem to overtake us when we get a moment’s silence.
These feelings can numb or deaden the joy of Christmas within us and lead us to a mere going through the motions. We might even be anxious to “get through” the holidays so that we can return to the normalcy of life where we feel safer and more capable of doing life well.
But I believe Jesus wants to free each and every one of us from the spirit of anxiety and emotional closterphobia. By his becoming flesh – one of us – at Christmas we know that he participates in our humanity and therefore can relate all of our struggles in an imperfect, fallen world. He is patient with us in these moments and, I believe, He wants us to be patient with ourselves.
During this busy season, when life can feel less “holy” than it “should,” I hope that you will join me in asking the Lord to dwell in whatever situations are causing us anxiety and frustration.
Even if our prayer is still filled with those anxieties and no devotion or Scripture passage can rid our mind of those thoughts, we are not alone and we have a Good Teacher who is faithful to his promise of peace. Even if we don’t feel His Presence, our faith tells us that He dwells in us. And that, my friends, gives us reason to hope!