If you thought being a Christian was a life of pure unadulterated blessing, think again. Sure, you will receive many blessings along the way, but today’s readings tell us that we can also expect attacks and difficulties. It’s part of the journey. The attack may not be physical – it may be the things people say (or do), or it may be any number of other difficult circumstances.
In the first reading today, we see that the Israelites – the people God has chosen to educate about Himself – are being harried by the Amalekites. This is just after the Israelites have crossed the Red Sea and are journeying through the desert on their way to Canaan. They are having difficulty trusting God. Typical humans, they are a rabble of moaners and groaners. First it’s the food, then it’s the water, and every time, God demonstrates that he will provide for them. We find out in Deuteronomy 25:17 about what happens to them next: “Remember how Amalek treated you when you were on your way out of Egypt. He met you on your way and, after you had gone by, he fell on you from the rear and cut off the stragglers; when you were faint and weary, he had no fear of God.” They are being attacked, unprovoked. And now, emboldened by these cowardly rearguard attacks, the Amalekites come to Rephidim and wage open warfare on the Israelites (Exodus 17:8).
We can expect this same sort of attack on us in the course of our lives: Satan will send one thing or another to draw us away from our faith. Perhaps our faith is weakened by public criticism of Christian teaching or by our own moral failures. Only this week, we had the leaking of emails showing the behind-the-scenes politicking which aims to bring down the Catholic Church, manifested by the anti-Catholic bigotry of the Clinton campaign team. Those of us who have not strengthened themselves may be like the stragglers who are cut off at the rear. Perhaps some other challenge will confront us which makes us wonder whether we can trust God any more – maybe our wife or husband has left us, our children have turned away from us, we have lost all our savings or a tragic event has occurred in our lives. Do we then turn away from God, saying “See how He doesn’t care about me”?
We find the answer in the readings today:
1. We need to be like Moses, who, when the going gets tough, keeps praying. Standing on the hilltop, he intercedes for the Israelites until he is physically worn out. In the Gospel, too, we see Jesus talking about the sheer physical effort we need to make in prayer, when he says “Will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them?” How many times are we that bothered that we “cry to him day and night?”
2. It helps if we have a support group like Moses, who is able to continue with the help of Aaron and Hur, holding him up on either side. Do you have a support group which prays together or studies the Bible with you? If not, you need to find one or start one.
3. Like the Israelites, when we’re going through challenging times, God is trying to help us grow in trust. Jesus says, “I promise you, [God] will see justice done to them, and done speedily.” We should never doubt that God wants what is best for us.
4. So what does it mean if God seems to be ‘delaying to help’? And how can God be getting justice done ‘speedily’ even while ‘delaying to help’? Isn’t this a contradiction? In my own life, I’ve found that the period of waiting for an answer from God is usually the most fruitful for my own spiritual development. It is during these times that my prayer life loses its tendency to lukewarmness and takes on the urgency and energy of a heart passionate for results. It is during these times that I examine myself more and start to notice areas that God might want me to work on. Even though God doesn’t seem to be working on the person who is causing me problems, he seems to be working on me! Maybe that was what he was after all the time!
If the whole point of our lives is for us to discover God and learn to work with him, then we should regard every difficulty as a marvellous opportunity to expand our trust in him.
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