What’s Stealing Your Joy?

My friend and I were pulling into the parking lot for Sunday Mass when I looked over and noticed the car of another sister beside us. I often find this particular sister difficult to love.

I’ve known her – or more to the point she has known me – for as long as I’ve been alive. She’s been a formative part of my development. I would not be who I am without her.

Whatsoever You Do to the Least of These…

I slid out of the car hoping she wouldn’t notice me. I didn’t want to talk to her, not even to say hello. I hurried into the church as fast as my feet would take me and sat down in the pew. Relief washed over me. I avoided an encounter with her.

I knelt down and stared up at the face of Christ on the cross. Sudden shame came over me. What I’ve done is a far cry from Christ’s command to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

I see in my own actions a hard-heartedness toward that sister, which is unbecoming of the faith I profess. How hurt would I be if someone I loved went out of their way to avoid me?

The Symptom of a Greater Disease

I pray to God to help me grow in my compassion. I ask Him to heal any wounds that are contributing to my behavior so that I can love as He loves. That’s the moment it hits me: I find no joy in her presence.

Along my walk with Christ, I’ve learned that a sure sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is joy. Where love abounds, hope is found and joy is always present. Where joy is missing, it’s a sure sign love is missing from that relationship.

Having spotted the symptom, I pray for His help to uncover the underlying disease. What is it that is stopping me from loving her? The answer is longer in coming this time.

Fruit of a Toxic Tree

The next day, I see the roots of the problem: resentment and envy. I envy how many things were gifted to her in her life. Her life seemed so much easier than mine. She seemed to be given everything, yet never made anything of herself with what she received. Instead, she squandered it all and still demands more.

She seems to always need help and to insist that others, including myself, give it. No matter what I give, it’s not enough. I’m sure to receive a rebuke from her that it isn’t enough – that it isn’t more.

I thank God for helping me to see where my envy and resentment originates. Then, I ask for God’s help in healing me of that wound.

Another day passes before I receive an answer. The constant need for additional support caused by failure to apply the gifts she’s received in such abundance puts added weight to the cross that I bear. It is in this moment that I come to the heart of the matter.

Rejecting the Cross

It is not this sister, or those like her, that I resent. It is the cross. I resent the extra weight of the crosses being thrust upon my shoulders by her neediness. I envy the way she’s managed to dodge carrying her crosses by giving them to others.

This revelation causes me to stop in my tracks. Christ is asking me to share a little more of His cross. He is trying to give me a great gift of a closer union with Him. Instead of being grateful for that gift and finding joy in it, I am resentful and reluctant to accept it.

The surest sign of God’s favor is a larger portion of the cross. He doesn’t deny anyone a cross. It is the only bridge that allows man to enter into Heaven. He wants us all with Him.

However, He knows that even the tiniest crosses are too much of a burden for those who are not His friends to bear without complaint. So He doesn’t ask much of them.

Those He calls friends, though, He asks to help Him carry His cross. The closer the friend, the more of the cross He asks them to bear with Him.

The Choice Before Me

If my life is harder, it is because I asked early in life to become a great saint. I asked in ignorance, not knowing what that entailed. It wasn’t until my mid-30s that God told me, when I grumbled and complained about how my life was going, “You do know how great saints are born, don’t you? Great saints are born through great suffering.”

Great saints are so because they are closest to Christ. His love flows more freely through them. It is a path that is filled with many heavy crosses. If my path seems harder, it is Christ’s answer to my prayers.

I can choose how I treat the one who is a cross to me. I can see them as an answer to my prayers, or I can grumble and complain about them. I can embrace them as the gift of love they are and rejoice at the favor I’m being shown, or I can resent them and envy those with fewer crosses to bear.

The choice is up to me. Accepting them brings greater love, hope, and joy into my life. Resenting them leads to hardness of heart, anger, resentment, and envy that makes my life toxic.

Finding Joy in the Cross

God gives me every help necessary to bear whatever weight that cross brings, but if I grumble and complain about it, I am no better than this sister. I will make nothing of myself with what I’ve received. I will squander the gift. Dare I demand more?

Over these last three days of prayer, I recognized that I, too, am always needing help. No matter what God gives, it’s never enough. I will always need more. Fortunately, I serve a God who is so kind and generous that He continues to give even when I do not deserve it.

He picks up His cross and bears it with a grateful heart, finding joy in me, even when I rebuke Him and demand He give me more. If I want to be like Him, I must do the same for others.

I Value Your Feedback

It is my firm belief that we don’t have to wait for death to begin experiencing Heaven’s rewards. We are meant to see God’s goodness in the land of the living.

My goal at Breaking Open Abundance is to help you clear out the blockages that are stopping you from experiencing all the love, hope, and joy that God wants you to experience so you can live life in abundance. I would love to know what you thought of this post.

Did you find it helpful? Challenging? Do you have questions or similar experiences to share? Leave a message in the comments below and I’ll respond.

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