September 7, 2012

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

God’s grace helps us to pass all of life’s tests

Patti LambLast Wednesday night, my son, Henry, had a meltdown when I told him it was time to study for his weekly spelling test. “Test” is a word that makes him cringe. It’s also a word that induces stomach aches in our household.

Henry solemnly declared his distaste for tests, and asked why he has to take so many of them.

I explained that tests are how we demonstrate that we understand what’s been taught. I told him that he can easily tell me that he knows how to spell his list words. But the test—when he actually says the right letters in the right order—is how he proves it.

In his infinite 7-year-old wisdom, he stated that he cannot wait to finish school because then tests will be done forever.

My dearest Henry, life is full of tests. They don’t end when you graduate.

My thoughts turn to a dear friend who is undergoing a most difficult test. It’s a test of her faith, patience and strength. Her younger sister was in a car accident last month and has not yet awoken. Nearly all of this friend’s time has been spent at her sister’s bedside.

In the midst of such pain and suffering, however, I see God at work in this woman named Lindsay. She is an example of how one gracefully passes life’s most excruciating tests.

In a similar situation, some people might imply that, because of a trial of this magnitude, God has turned his back on them. But not Lindsay. She understands that life’s tests are not the handiwork of God, but a result of the human condition and human choices.

Instead of giving up on God, Lindsay has embraced him. She has found comfort in his words. She has felt his presence in the company and thoughtful gestures of friends, who have reached out to her in ways she never could have imagined. Friends provide childcare so that she can be at the hospital. They make meals for her family so that cooking doesn’t need to be a concern on the home front. And she cannot express how lifted she feels by the prayers of friends and the community.

Lindsay explained that, despite this trial, she feels so blessed. She’s counting her blessings on the grayest of days. She searches for the bright side and takes no good thing for granted—like the constant and unfailing support of her husband, and the heartwarming smiles of her three beautiful children. Lindsay’s actions show me that she is passing this test. I am learning from her example of grace and gratitude under pressure. As the old saying goes, she doesn’t know what the future holds, but she knows who holds the future.

It turns out that life is one test after another. (Sorry, Henry.) But something a wise Irish priest recently said during a homily provided some contentment. He explained that God has already given us all we need to pass life’s tests. The answers are inside of us, and the challenge lies in whether we summon the strength to call upon God’s grace when we start to lose our way. He further explained that following God doesn’t necessarily mean freedom from trials and struggle, but a sense of peace in those times and assurance that it will all be OK in the end.

Everyone on this planet is enduring a test of some kind. The ways in which we’re tested vary greatly, but victory is sure to come in only one way—by turning to God.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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