“You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want. Change the focus. Get a new center. Will what God wills, and your joy no man shall take from you.”Venerable Fulton Sheen
It was only recently that I began to truly reflect and ponder upon the following verse taken from Isaiah, “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice” (Isa. 41:10).
Sit for a minute and take in the words. Comforting, are they not?
All right. But you may ask, how does one place their confidence and trust in the Lord to overcome fear? For many individuals, it is an immense struggle to let go of fear and give everything to God.
After almost a year of working through my own interior battle to overcoming fear after unexpectedly discerning out of the religious life (and later working with other young people as they face a similar struggle that is, by its very nature, so unique), I have slowly been able to more and more cling to the hem of Christ’s garment. I can honestly say that I never blamed God for having to leave the convent, but it was a tremendous challenge to rely on him, completely and wholly, to direct me on a new path. I needed to be willing to keep driving onward in my new and uncertain journey, but allowing only Jesus to steer. I spent seven years discerning religious life, and it was crushing to have to let go of the plan that I felt so strongly in my heart was God’s will for me.
My first Sunday back in my home parish, I remember sitting in the pew at Mass, gazing at the tabernacle with such an immense ache in my heart, accompanied by a surge of overwhelming fear. A million questions were swirling around in my mind, but the major one was this: “How do I live in the world when my heart longs to give my life to Christ as a religious sister in the convent?” My heart, mind, and soul were consumed by fear of the unknown, and all I could do was plead with my Beloved Lord to help me to keep my focus on him and pass through what felt like stormy waters rising up all around me.
It took several months before I could bring myself to attend Daily Mass again, because it hurt too much to be in the Church, and I could not get through a Mass without tears streaming down my face. It was not until the summer that, by God’s grace, I was able to return to Daily Mass, and slowly and gradually I was able to let go of the vocational aspiration that rested upon my heart—to release the fear of the many unknowns that still enveloped me.
How was I able to even begin to overcome the tremendous sense of fear that was like a rushing mighty wind swirling around my entire being? It was by receiving the Eucharist each day again, and beginning a new friendship with another young adult at my parish, that Christ gifted me with the peace and consolation that helped to quiet the fear in my heart, and to know that I could lean on our Father in Heaven who would take care of everything. Each day at Mass, I would pray not for myself or my own hurts but would instead offer up my Holy Communion for our priests. There was something about turning outward from myself that helped me to gaze more and more deeply at Christ. I would look at the Sacred Host during the Consecration and envision myself giving everything to him; all of my fear, my anxiety, and most of all, my love.
After leaving the convent, I struggled with praying the Liturgy of the Hours on my own, and it was by praying with my friend each morning after Mass that the words of the Psalms once again became alive in my heart; flowing through my veins and seeping down deep into my soul. Thus, I could further incline my ear towards the Father to listen.
There is an antiphon in the Office of Readings: “Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you.” I still do not know the plans that God has for me, but I continue to place my trust and confidence in the Lord, that he will show me the way. And I know that I have no need to fear because wherever I go in this life I will never be alone; my Beloved Bridegroom will always be at my side offering me an eternal and everlasting love.