Praising God Amid Disappointment

At church last Sunday, my little sister stood in front of the small group of children she was teaching in Kids Church. Next to her was a white paper bag sitting on a black stool, and young boy who had volunteered to participate on stage.

The big idea for our lesson this week was that God desires us to humbly put others above ourselves (Galatians 5:14, Philippians 2:3). With that, we chose talking about Abraham and Lot, where Abraham gave Lot the better, greener, lush land while Abraham took the rocky dirt area of land (Genesis 13), but before explaining all of that to the children in attendance, my sister wanted to show selfishness though the contents of her white paper bag.

Inside the bag, she pulled out a broken slinky, a container of Orbeez, a freshly sharpened pencil, a mangled broken pencil, a half-eaten Oreo, and some uneaten wrapped candy. She kept the good items for herself and gave the broken items to her little volunteer.

Now, my sister was following a plan written down on the notes in front of her. She practiced the lesson just 15 minutes prior and has never had a skill with ad libbing or going with the flow when a conversation doesn’t go the way you planned.

She had expected a little disappointment in the volunteer, or some laughs in the crowd as she handed the broken items over. She did not expect the volunteer to be so overjoyed with what he received. As he was happily playing with the broken slinky, a genuine smile on his face, my sister struggled to figure out what to do next. Naturally, she decided to continue following her lesson notes.

“How come you’re so upset?” she asked the overjoyed boy.

“I’m not upset. My mom taught me to be thankful and grateful for what I get. I love what you gave me,” the volunteer replied.

I had to interject at this point to help my sister since her volunteer’s unexpected reply was met with complete and utter silence for several seconds. We went on to acknowledge our volunteer’s good attitude & eventually brought around to our planned topic.

However, I wanted to share on here what this young boy said because I am in awe and joyful over his response.

How do we respond when we’re given ridiculous gifts at Christmas? Or when a restaurant gets our order wrong? Or when we’re expecting God to give us what we’ve been asking for, and He offers the opposite?

In Psalm 9, it says “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart…”

Psalm 147:7 says, “Sing to the Lord with grateful praise…”

There’s often a phone number or email address for companies to address complaints in products or services. Complaining is a worldly thing, cultural even. Gratitude is a God thing. Thankfulness is what we’re called to. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could whine and complain about everything that’s wrong with our lives. He died so we could rejoice in eternity with Him.

This week, instead of pointing out all the negatives in a situation, let’s try to find the positives. Thank God for even the worst moments. Very often when I’m having a rough day, or I had to slam on my brakes due to a unskilled driver in front of me, I say out loud, “Praise the Lord.” I repeat this until the negative feelings inside me disappear. It’s always worked out for me so far.

Let’s praise the Lord today and every day, every moment of our lives. Say it with me:

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

The Patience and Fervent Prayer of St. Monica

I’ve heard of St. Augustine in my studies, a Christian philosopher/writer/bishop, who I don’t know a whole lot about aside from my favorite quotes of his:

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” 

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.” 

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.” 

“In order to discover the character of people we have only to observe what they love.”

caro tua, coniunx tua – your body is your wife

St. Augustine had quite the exceptional life, including being one of the most famous Christian philosophers & Catholic saints. You can read all about him if you’re interested, because I’m not here to chat about Auggie today. I’m hear to brag about his mother, Monica.

I’m not Catholic, so my knowledge of the church’s history and sainthood is absolutely minimal. From what I’ve read, St. Augustine’s mother is a huge key woman in the history of the Church. Here’s why…

The short version of explaining who Monica is lays in her patronage. As she’s now referred to as St. Monica, she’s the patron saint of married women, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of adultery, victims of abuse, and conversion of relatives. Within her patronage, people often refer to her as the patron saint for finding patience.

The longer version is that Monica was recorded as a patient, devoted wife and mother despite who she shared a home with. Her husband was an unfaithful, unkind pagan (and apparently the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in the case of her husband’s mother, who also lived with them). To add to the toxic home, the house servants treated Monica just as her husband treated her. She was married twenty years before he passed away & Monica became a devoted single mother to three children, one of them being Augustine. I’m not sure of the history of her other two children, but little Auggie was the reason Monica is the patron saint of difficult children.

What Monica desired most in life was to see her children become followers of Jesus. For Augustine, this proved difficult. As a child and young man, he was quite hardheaded and stubborn. He was known as a lazy intellectual, which led him on an studious chase of spirituality. For some time, he was even a pagan like his dad.

Though Augustine gave Monica so much grief and heartache, Monica never gave up. She prayed consistently for him even though he pushed her away. For seventeen whole years, she watched her son live a life full of sin, empty of the Lord, and she fervently prayed every single one of those days.

One year after Augustine converted to Christianity, Monica passed away. It seemed fitting in that bringing her children to know the Lord was her one and only purpose in life. When Augustine accepted Jesus into his life, Monica’s roll on Earth was complete. A few days before she died, she told Augustine, ““My son, speaking of myself, nothing earthly delights me any longer. I do not know why I am still here or why I should remain here. I have no further earthly desires.”

Her mourning turned to joy. Her patience paid off. She was often discouraged, but never gave up on God or Augustine. She waited seventeen years for God to answer her prayer, and in part to her dedication and faith, the path of the Church has been made partially due to her son.

While I don’t know much about patron saints or Catholic history, I think this story is beautiful and such a testament to God’s faithfulness and grace. Don’t give up on those who are lost. Pray continuously, it’s our strongest weapon provided to us by our Father. Keep faith in God’s plan, even when it’s taking longer than you’d like it to.

“Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you.”

Jeremiah 29:12 AMP