A Key To Life Is to Forget Trying to Make It Perfect Just Focus on Our Character
by Michael Brown
The Book of Sirach tells us not to "stand against the raging river." We might also add, don't flow with it. This is good advice. Fight for what is right, yes; strive for it; but do not stand against that which you are not meant to stand, and don't flow with what you are not meant to flow. Step back. Don't strive to be what you're not meant to be. Don't try to make earth into your Heaven.
Collecting all the things and awards and positions of this life means less when you die than the vast majority of people think. In other words, what you are is not nearly as important as who you are.
Too many times we try to do too much (in the corporal sense) instead of handing it over to God and letting Him guide us to perfection. Becoming Christ-like takes time -- and will consume the rest of our lives (if we're honest about pursuing Him)! God is far more interested in strength and stability than swiftness. He realizes the fallen nature of earth. Go with His flow, step back from the raging rivers of the world, and partake of the sacraments.
Now, don't get that advice wrong. We should always work to bring God-like features to earth. Our lives should be dedicated to improving the planet and those on it -- making it holy. And we should certainly set perfection as our goal. What it is saying is that we should not aspire to actually make earth into our paradise, the be-all and end-all.
Doing that leads only to frustration.
Accept the earth as what it is -- a place of testing -- and realize that this test comes to us all in infinite forms. Those tests will come no matter what you do for a living, or who you think you are. Has God ordained what you are to do for a living? Is your profession, your career, a key issue? Is that important to Him?
Perhaps. But in many cases, there are any number of things we could do for a living. There are many different vocations. What is important to God is how similar to Jesus we are in handling them.
Such is a message conveyed in the massive bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life, a general Christian book but one that certainly bears earmarks of the Holy Spirit and is useful to Catholics. "Much confusion in the Christian life comes from ignoring the simple truth that God is far more interested in building your character than He is in anything else," notes author Rick Warren. "We worry when God seems silent on specific issues such as 'What career should I choose?' The truth is, there are many different careers that could be in God's Will for your life. What God cares about most is that whatever you do, you do in a Christ-like manner."
God is far more interested, to repeat, in what we are than what we do. He is interested in human beings more than human doings. He wants us to develop holy habits -- for example, kindness.
That athlete who sets records? That prominent businessman? That artist?
In Heaven, God will not judge by worldly standards. What is great here is not great there. It is how we have approached our missions in life and those we have encountered that will matter, and those missions are often separate from what we do for a living.
The greatest artist in the world will have a life of naught if he did not relate to other people with love, truth, and kindness.
The same is true for us. Especially, it is true about how we relate to God! Love is our great mission, and it can be accomplished in any number of professions. We don't have to force things of this world. We don't have to rage against the river!
Unfortunately, many popular Christian books focus on personal fulfillment instead of sanctification. This is especially the case in Protestant "prosperity ministries." God doesn't want slick people! He doesn't care about those who are super-successful by the standards of the world. He wants disciples! "Jesus did not die on the Cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives," warns Warren. "His purpose is far deeper: He wants us like Himself before He takes us to Heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility, and our ultimate destiny."
God uses the Bible, the Catholic Church, the faithful elsewhere, and circumstances to mold us. Once we accept that -- the notion that life as a test, a place where we learn -- we transcend much of the heartbreak. God has a purpose in every problem. He has a purpose for your life. He wants us to look inside ourselves. He wants us to mature in many ways. He wants us to abandon ourselves to Him.
You were made for a mission, and that mission has little to do with self-satisfaction. It has to do with holiness! Every problem is a character-building opportunity and the secret to endurance -- to joy here on earth -- is to remember that pain is temporary, that when handled properly it firms the spiritual muscle, and that the reward for meeting our purpose, our missions, is eternal.
[Bookstore resources: The Purpose-Driven Life]
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