"Lord Steer This Ship": A personal plea

"Steer the Ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict.  Show me the course I should take.  Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go.  And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace."-St. Basil the Great

This has been one of my favorite prayers that I have ever heard.  This prayer has taken on an even deeper significance these past two weeks as I have struggled greatly with being temporarily unemployed.

I can't help it my first instinct is usually to despair.  I am by no stretch of the imagination an optimist.  My mind naturally gravitates towards the worst of things.  When times get tough,  my pessimism takes me hostage, drowning any vestige of hope or the desire to plow forward. During these times I struggle even to make the simplest act of faith. How could I believe in something better when my present reality is so daunting and unforgiving. 

I feel like my ship is being bombarded with forty foot waves.  The waves are coming from all different directions, North, South, East, and West.  My ship is being violently tossed all over the place.  I scream out loud, "Jesus, Jesus help me please"  Still I get not response as the merciless waves beat my the bark of my ship.  I am almost tossed ashore, in the sea of my despair.  There are not glimpses of sunlight all I see are the menacing, ferocious waves loudly engulfing my ship, beating me, throwing me, mocking me.  I keep screaming, "Lord, Lord Please help me", still I get no reply.  I am in dire straits, I am at the end of my rope, all hope is quickly vanishing, I am preparing, for my imminent demise, I am preparing to drown, I close my eyes...

During these past trying, two weeks I have felt like this. I know in my heart of hearts that the Lord will guide me to the safety of his loving arms, but still I am a weak human, given to my darkest, terriblest, and loudest passions.  When I am like this I can't discern the will of God, I don't know where to go, which road to take until...

...Once I open my eyes I see someone in the distance, this figure draws nearer as I am being cruelly battered by the harsh waves.  As I cry out loud a figure begins to draw nearer until at last this figure is standing right next to me, to my right.  The storm is still pounding my ship, in its demonic frenzy, but I notice that something is changing inside of me.  I am beginning to feel calm, suddenly an overwhelming surge of peace engulfs me, reinvigorating me, giving me life, a new strength to carry on.  I am inspired, I am not alone,  although these waves are still relentlessly punishing me I can fight this, I can survive, I can overcome anything, I see the bright, illuminating lights of the harbor, I am getting nearer and nearer to the shore.

During these difficult moments the only thought that has given me comfort is that the Lord is with me through this trial.  He might not be taking away this storm, but he is always with me.  Yesterday when I went to mass I came upon this reading from Hebrews that helped put my current sufferings in perspective:

"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.  For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." (Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13)

I was so grateful for this passage because it gave me the answer that I had been so desperately seeking.  I learned that the Lord was not punishing me, instead he was disciplining me, stripping away my disorderly attachment to pessimistic thinking;  forcing me to rely more on him and on myself less.  A true Christian can't be a person without hope.  The Lord in his infinite wisdom was teaching me through painful discipline that I needed to cultivate a deep, sincere hope, forged through this present suffering. Without hope I could not precede forward in the spiritual life.  It is my prayer that the Lord increase in my life, infusing my weak being with a new found hope, and that through this process I may decrease in my esteem and rely more and more on him.


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