Over the last couple of years, I have “randomly” come across a particular scripture verse multiple times about seeking things above, not on earth. I know God is trying to teach me this lesson in order to free me. The last weekend in July, there it was again popping up in the second reading: “Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-5)”
The reading from St. Paul was on a Sunday, and that day I felt God speak to my heart about how this lesson ties so strongly to Peter- fearful in the boat, then actually walking on water (!), but then sinking because he took his eyes off of Jesus and became fearful again. Peter was looking on earth, not above. Honestly, I can so relate to Peter!
Then that same week, I wasn’t able to make daily Mass on Monday, but I did make it on Tuesday. I almost fell over on Tuesday when the gospel was none other than Peter walking on water! My jaw dropped open in shock, yet part of me wasn’t surprised at the same time. I love the occasions when I get confirmation about what God is telling me!
Seeking what is above- it’s honestly been the answer to so much of what has ever weighed heavily on my heart. I’m seeing that a lot of my distress has come from putting weight on earthly things, even though they might be good things in and of themselves. All too often I’m like Peter, having a hard time because I’m looking at events or circumstances instead of at Jesus. And then it’s easy to sink.
I have come to realize that a lot of times, when I perceive certain things as very stressful or as major, it is because I am seeing those situations with human eyes, looking at the here-and-now. Sure, often these things are very big deals in the current moment. They might demand an answer or energy that I feel too spent to give, or they might even cause pain or hardship right now. But they pale in comparison to an eternity in heaven. Even if these things cause me significant problems/pain here on earth, what weight do they carry in terms of eternity? Usually very little. They typically carry weight now because of my preference for comfort or “happiness” or the smooth road or a path that “makes sense,” but not because of my eternal well-being, which should be the focus of my life.
Focusing on getting to heaven is no small task- that’s enough of a job as it is, so why am I trying to add things to my plate that are of this world and are out of my control? I mean, I have to kind of chuckle at myself there. I need to be worried about the state of my soul, not so much the inconveniences or even significant sufferings of daily life. The current moment seems to demand all of my attention, but I need to reserve that mental energy for growing closer to Jesus, because I only have a certain amount of time here on earth to do that. There’s no time to worry so much about earthly things if I’m thinking on things above instead- the mind can only think on one thing at a time. I’m having to refocus myself on this multiple times daily, because it’s difficult and often unnatural in my humanness. Focusing on the bigger picture of eternity is honestly a relief and a welcomed switch, though!
I think often it’s been my fear that has held me back spiritually- my fear of pain or suffering, or my fear of things not going as I wanted them to go or perceived that they “should” go. The ideas that the world has given me in terms of what success is and what a good life is have actually hindered me spiritually, leading to a significant amount of this fear. I am trying to recognize and discard those thoughts. The here-and-now is just a blip on the radar when you consider eternity. It’s still hard though, because the daily pressures or the pains of going through something difficult, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, are still much more difficult to endure than the idea of enduring them. When rubber meets the road, it’s just hard to struggle…in any way.
God’s grace makes this possible, though. His grace and presence mean I don’t have to do it alone. There still might be significant struggles and responsibilities, but I don’t have to come up with the power to sustain myself on my own, because I can’t. I have to ask for and be open to receiving His grace to do something that maybe I didn’t want to have to do in the first place. I have to seek what is above: the grace, the guidance, the comfort, the…everything good I can’t find here on earth.
I am now recognizing that when I am so stressed or bothered by something, it is often because I am seeing that situation with only human eyes, which is certainly not the full picture. I can rest assured that no matter what is happening on the earthly realm, it pales in comparison to the heavenly realm, so I should focus on what will get me to heaven. All of the things that still might be painful and bothersome suddenly carry less weight through these lenses which God has been handing me lately.
Now, when I am overwhelmed and at the end of my rope, I stop and ask myself how much weight the issue at hand carries in terms of my eternal salvation, as often as I can remember to do so. If it carries weight in that department, then my sole focus becomes straightening that path. If it doesn’t though, and even if it’s still difficult or annoying to endure, I’m asking for the grace to feel God’s presence with me during it, and I’m making an effort to offer it up for redemption of souls, participating in Jesus’ cross. I’m trying to ask God what He wants me to do in the situations and moments of my day more than I fixate on the actual issues and events themselves. I still have a lot of work to do on this, but I notice that when I focus on things above, it changes me for the better and leads to less stress.