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Oct 04, 2023 1592 Ellen Hogarty, USA
Encounter

Gentle Signs of God’s Love

Trials in life can be exhausting…but life offers us signs to help us fight and survive

Over the years in spiritual direction, as I have listened to people share their struggles, one thing often repeated is the sense that God has abandoned them or is distant and aloof when they are going through trials. “What am I doing wrong? Why has God put me through this? Where is He in all of this?” Often people think that once they have had a serious conversion and get close to Jesus, their life is going to be problem-free. But the Lord never promised that. In fact, God’s Word is clear on this.

Thorns and Thistles

In Sirach 2:1, it says, “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials” (that whole chapter is a great one to read, by the way). The apostles also tried to prepare new Christians for this truth as they spread the Gospel. We read in Acts 14:22, “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many trials to enter the Kingdom of God.’”

As we grow in our relationship with God and get more serious about obeying His Word, we are going to be faced with some serious challenges and hardships. We are going to have to make decisions and take stands that make us unpopular. People are going to misunderstand us. Not everyone is going to like us.

If you want everyone to like you, forget trying to follow Jesus. Why? Because to live the Gospel life as Jesus preached it to us is to go against our culture. Jesus Himself warns us of this “If the world hates you, realize that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

So yes, we must pass through many trials and hardships in this life. But as I remind people in spiritual direction, God never leaves us on our own in those difficult times. He wants to give us encouragement and help along the way so that we persevere and come through the storms of life stronger and more convinced of His deep and abiding love for us. God is trustworthy!

Reading the Signs

Think about the example of the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. He went against the crowd and took a strong stand against idolatry when he confronted the false prophets of Baal. After the dramatic and wildly successful confrontation, Queen Jezebel was furious and determined to kill Elijah. Fearing for his life, Elijah fled in haste to the desert. He collapsed under a broom tree, exhausted, depressed, and wanting to die. That’s when God sent an angel to bring him food and water. The angel said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you” (1 Kings, 18 and 19).

God knows exactly what we need. He knew that Elijah needed to sleep, eat, and recover after a stressful event. The Lord knows what you need. God wants to meet our needs and encourage us. However, we have to be attentive to how He might be doing that. Many times I think we miss His attempts to communicate with us. The Lord did not speak to Elijah in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. But in the “sound of sheer silence,” is when Elijah encountered God.

Lilies Everywhere

Some years ago, I was going through a time of difficult trials and desolation. Life felt very heavy and burdensome. One Saturday, a young friend of mine went out horseback riding and found a white lily-like flower in the desert and brought it back and gave it to me. The next day, I was walking down the street in El Paso and saw an artificial white lily lying on the ground. I picked it up and took it home with me.

The following day I came across another white lily-type flower growing near a sidewalk. Three white lilies in three days. I knew there was a message in this from the Lord, but I did not know exactly what He was trying to say.

As I reflected on it, a memory suddenly came back to me. Many years ago, when I was a new missionary in our community, we were having Mass at our Youth Center. After Communion, I was praying with my eyes closed. Someone tapped me on my shoulder. Startled out of my prayer, I looked up and saw the priest standing there. He said to me, “The Lord wants you to know that you are a lily in His eyes.” And then, the priest went back to the altar and sat back down. I did not really know that priest yet, and he never shared any other message like that with me again. But I stored it in my heart as a special word from the Lord to encourage me.

Now, all these years later, that memory came back to me, and now I understood the lilies. The Lord wanted to encourage me during the tough time I was going through. He was reminding me that I am His lily and that He loves me very much. It filled my heart with some much-needed peace and reassurance that I was not going through the storms alone. God was faithfully going to see me through them.

Pay Attention

God knows you by name. You are His beloved child. He sees you and knows all that you are going through. He wants to communicate His love to you, but usually, the signs come softly and gently. We can miss them if we are not paying attention.

I could have missed that message of love with the lilies. I could have thought they were just a coincidence. But I knew it was more than a coincidence, and I wanted to know the message. God revealed it to me as I pondered in my heart what the meaning might be. And when I understood it, it gave me consolation and strength to endure.

So I encourage you—persevere through the trials. Don’t quit! And look for those little signs of God’s love and encouragement along the way. I guarantee you they are there. We just need to open our eyes and ears and pay attention.

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Ellen Hogarty

Ellen Hogarty is a spiritual director, writer and full-time missionary with the Lord’s Ranch Community in New Mexico. She blogs at cacklescorner.com.

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