Last weekend, we launched our Sunday message series for the New Year that we’re calling, Spiritual Life Hacks: Simple Tweaks to Improve Everyday Life. The premise of the series is that certain strategies called “life hacks” that are used to reduce the frustration and difficulty of daily living in general also can apply to our spiritual lives. In the next article, for example, you’ll learn about a simple trick one of our staff members uses to connect with God during her commute to work. These “spiritual life hacks,” therefore, are simply down-to-earth techniques that help to improve the quality of our faith lives.
For instance, the spiritual life hack last week encouraged us to change our attitude about God by focusing more on his value in our lives, so that we can become more generous people. When we value God, we naturally desire to offer the best we have for him. The spiritual life hack this week encourages us to change our attitude about ourselves, so that we can know our true value and come to a deeper understanding of our importance in the eyes of God.
Guilt and shame can be crippling to well-meaning church people. Excesses in our religious culture have taught many of us that the daily struggle for holiness and virtue is ours alone. When we fail to measure up, we blame ourselves and wonder whether we have lived good lives. I have visited many dying patients who are fearful of their impending encounter with the Lord because of mistakes made in their past and a general feeling of having been spiritually ineffective and perhaps even neglectful.
The problem with this approach is that our excessive self-chastisement often does little more than crowd out God’s grace. What seems like humility in our constant self-abasement because of our spiritual failures actually demonstrates our own hubris. To the extent we are constantly heaping self-blame on our heads, what space have we left for God to act? As Saint Paul writes, the Holy Spirit “richly poured out on us” justifies us by God’s grace, something we cannot do for ourselves (Titus 3:6-7).
“I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice,” God says in the Bible. Therefore, we are not called to dwell on failures but to trust in God to walk us into victory. “I have grasped you by the hand,” God says to us. “I formed you, and set you as . . . a light for the nations” (Isaiah 6-7).
If God has those kind of plans in store for us, don’t you think his grace will be sufficient? Our failures should not be an occasion for a spiritual pity party, but the opportunity to surrender ourselves more fully into the sweet embrace of our merciful God, because we are important to him.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson