Editor’s Note: Missioner Becky Kreidler reflects on the challenges of maintaining an authentic prayer life when faced with the unknowns and unexpected turns of life.
Sometimes the side-effects of being labeled as a missioner cause me to chuckle. Based on people’s frequent comments, it seems they often think I am some saintly figure and that I am spiritually mature and connected all the time. Even my own lovely mom seems to think I spend all my days in constant, deep prayer. I think it is only human of us to hold what we perceive as good things and good people up on a pedestal. But I do want to take a moment to say that as I write this, not only do I sometimes struggle to be good and love fully in my life, but I feel that I am in a period of spiritual darkness and disconnection.
I am currently home in Illinois recovering from knee surgery. While my knee pain started before I left for mission, my condition worsened in Guatemala, and I went through a period of time where I wrestled with what my next steps should be. I ultimately discerned that God was gently asking me to heal at home and made the journey back to the States only after two and a half months in Guatemala. I am so hopeful to return to life at Valley of the Angles with the kids, but at almost three months post-surgery, I am feeling almost no difference since before the operation, and my days are filled with aches and fatigue. I have come to a point where I dread doctor appointments and physical therapy, as it feels that each health professional is always telling me something different and that many are unsure what could be causing the continuous pain.
While I have felt the struggle of impatience, physical pain, and hopelessness, I have reminded myself time and time again that the only answer, the only relief, is in the One who knows me best. I have prayed the rosary, begging Mary to intercede for my healing. I’ve sat with palms up gently asking Jesus to reunite me with the children at Valley of the Angels, if that is still His Papa’s will. I’ve even gotten snippy and frustrated with God asking Him why he placed the clear message “I will go” in my heart three years ago, only to lead me home and sitting in constant pain.
Amidst all this prayer, I have felt no answer from God. In what can only be characterized as my childish ways, I find myself marching off in protest, even going so far as to actively avoid prayer because it seems He won’t answer me. I know the value of prayer is being in relationship with God, not about what He chooses to reveal to me. But it can become so discouraging when I can’t seem to hear His voice at all. And I so desperately want to believe that He will make me new, but I have noticed in myself that most days I am incredibly skeptical that He actually will.
It was only recently, in a Catholic podcast that I was listening to (Blessed Is She Gathering Place), that one of the hosts shared an insight that has completely challenged me, awakened me, and shifted how I am thinking of prayer and my situation. She shared advice that a friend had given her some time ago. She said, “Sometimes the Lord withholds His hand from you because He wants you to see His face.” I think it’s true that in a world where we seek results, answers, progress, this mindset can be present in our relationship with God. We often seek the rewards of God and what He will offer us for our prayers and our faith, when sometimes all God wants for us is to forget about the potential gifts that come from His power and instead come to fully know and love Him.
And this truth is not just prevalent in the witness and experiences of others, but it is also present within the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In fact, within the section on Christian Prayer, there is an entire section entitled, “The Battle of Prayer.” So many lines jumped out to me, but this one in particular hit me in the gut: “we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?”
It’s a difficult and almost sickening question I had to ask myself: Have I been using God? Do I actually long to know Him better or do I simply want to physically get better?
“Our own Catechism acknowledges the difficulty of the spiritual life and the struggle that ensues to maintain the right, just, and obedient path that Jesus exemplified and wants for each of us; it is not insignificant that the ones who guide us in the faith acknowledge that it literally can be a battle.”
While I recognize my childish ways of seeking instant gratification, I think it’s important to say that I have also recognized a deep hope here. Our own Catechism acknowledges the difficulty of the spiritual life and the struggle that ensues to maintain the right, just, and obedient path that Jesus exemplified and wants for each of us; it is not insignificant that the ones who guide us in the faith acknowledge that it literally can be a battle. And while it’s tempting for our idea of holiness to be one of perfection, I believe there is nothing “perfect” about being a person of faith. I invite you to join me, in your consolation, desolation, and ordinary moments all the same, and seek His face.
Reflection Question: When faced with a period of desolation, what prayer techniques or resources uplift your spirit?