Straining Too Hard In The Spiritual Life

Straining Too Hard In The Spiritual Life

There is such a thing as spiritual hemorrhoids. St. Teresa of Avila knew about it:

When you pray you may wish to picture yourself in the presence of Christ and be caught up in a great love for his sacred humanity. You may get used to being in his presence, to speaking with him, asking him of things you need, making your complaints known to him, telling him of your trials, but also rejoicing with him in your joys…

This is an excellent way of making progress in the spiritual life and making it quickly. But don’t spend all your time summoning up the presence of God. There is nothing wrong with this method of prayer but enjoyable as it is give your soul an occasional Sunday – a day of rest from your labor. Keep yourself in the presence of God, let your imagination work for you, but do not weary your mind or grow tired composing speeches. Simply set out your needs and acknowledge that you have no right to be always aware of God’s presence. There is a time for this, and a time for that. Observe them. Otherwise your soul will grow weary.

Our journey through prayer is one down an endlessly bending and changing river. It makes sense that sometimes you’d just have to pull your oars into the boat and remind yourself that you are not the boss; the river is mysteriously drawing you onward – don’t strain so much in getting there right now!

What St. Teresa is not talking about is taking a break from prayer all-together. But there are those people who, in their path to sainthood, can be tempted to strain too hard. If there are two foundational principles of the spiritual life – 1) it all depends on God and 2) your participation really matters (The Fulfillment of All Desire) – these are the people who need to be reminded more of the former. These are the impatient ones, the perfectionists, who abhor wasted time; those anxious to get where they are going, not realizing that God created time and He loves to use it. Those who are tempted to lose hope because they are not yet what they should be. Instead of the type of person tempted to get lazy, flaccid spiritual muscles, these are the people tempted to get spiritual hernias, spiritual hemorrhoids.

Maybe you are searching and looking for God too anxiously, with a kind of panic that leads to a nebulous irritation and unsettledness. St. Teresa’s advice here is something to keep in mind. Realize that God is in control. Stay prayed-up, surrender and know that it doesn’t depend on you. The sum total of what you can do in the spiritual life is say, ‘Yes.’ Everything else is up to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Pray for the peace that surpasses understanding.

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Joey McCoy

Joey McCoy

Joey McCoy is the Assistant Director of i.d.9:16. He graduated from medical school in 2017, but felt Jesus pull him out of medicine to do full-time ministry. Joey's passion is to help people discover and embrace the most authentic ways of being "a people of God on the move" and how to live the way of life of Jesus in myriad contexts. Additionally, Joey is married, a father and enjoys the ocean, Michigan football, used bookstores and hunting for the finest espresso
Joey McCoy

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