I experienced a great disappointment on a recent Sunday. It came unexpectedly. Blindsided me. Left me staggering, virtually mute, uncertain.
It involved a group of people about whom I care deeply. I have prayed with them, confided in them, rejoiced in simply discovering them. I found hope and consolation in the future in part because of them.
Now, their words had hurt me, confused me. Please don’t misunderstand. I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t blame them. Their decision made some sense to me.
But the news — it doesn’t matter what that news was — erected an intimidating possible barrier. Given the challenges of the last couple of years, something felt final and in need of mourning. I felt my strength waning and was left with intense sadness, a form of the emotion that somewhat paralyzed my spirit.
My initial, almost automatic reaction once I left was to attend Mass at my parish. My wife would be there. So would my dad, as well as many familiar faces within my parish family. I knew I couldn’t talk about the situation with anyone there, not right away, because I still had to sort things out in my mind as well as my soul. But just sitting in that pew might bring some comfort.
I hoped I’d find God’s soothing presence.
As I drove the car, I turned on some music. One of the songs that randomly played quoted Psalm 121. I found myself humming the tune and hearing some of those same words repeating in my mind afterward. When I settled into my seat at church and got into the flow of Mass, the song leader sang the Responsorial Psalm — yep, Psalm 121. And the first stanza he sang was the same two verses that had been echoing in my brain while I was driving:
“I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; whence shall help come to me? My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (v. 1-2).
I pondered those words, then tucked them away in my heart. By Monday morning, I decided to take them as “divine advice.” I found a quiet place for some meditative prayer, a bit of contemplation.
I think that Jesus had similar feelings, and would tell me something like this:
“I can imagine how that must have felt. Not just imagine — I can relate. I felt disappointed in my friends, too, when I was in deep anguish that night, turned to my friends and found them asleep. I really wanted their friendship and spiritual support right then. I understood it was late, that they were tired, that they really didn’t comprehend what I was going through. I had peace in my soul because the Father assured me of our plan. The Holy Spirit gave me a certain calm to go forward. At the same time, I felt alone in that garden. And I get it that you feel rejected. I went through that profoundly when I looked around for moral support from my community of friends and family when that plan was unfolding so painfully. Yeah, I still had that peace from the Father. I knew in my heart I wasn’t really going through everything on my own. And yet, in my mind, I wondered where everyone was going. I really did feel rejected and abandoned. So I know exactly how you’re feeling. It’ll be OK. It’s part of a plan. I’m sorry it has to hurt so much to carry it, though. Can I help you? Will you let me share the burden with you?”
That’s when I suddenly remembered the “Bookmark Prayer” of St. Teresa of Avila, a short prayer that begins “Let nothing disturb you” and ends, “God alone suffices.” I realized that God is still present in the midst of all this. My calling is not to know the plan but to trust there is one, to trust Him and know that He is sufficient.
“Yes, Lord,” I whispered, “I will let you share my burden in this moment.” Peace swept over me. And the name of that Sunday song came to mind: “Praise You In This Storm.”
So I praised God for my Sunday disappointment.
Eisenbath is a parishioner at St. Cletus in St. Charles.