Forget the fairy-tale ending: God has a better plan for you

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An Israeli border police officer stands near Catholic tourists from Indonesia as they carry a cross Oct. 18 on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City, near a site where several recent stabbings have taken place. (Debbie Hill/CNS)
An Israeli border police officer stands near Catholic tourists from Indonesia as they carry a cross Oct. 18 on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City, near a site where several recent stabbings have taken place. (Debbie Hill/CNS)

Years ago, a wise friend offered up this little nugget: “I want my kids to experience disappointment. They might as well learn now while they’re young!”

So how should a follower of Christ handle disappointment? Our Lord showed us the way, particularly when He said, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” In His humanity, He feared the pain of the cross — we all do — yet He entrusted Himself completely to the Father.

I thought of that during these last few weeks while working on stories for The Catholic Sun. There was the seminarian, Frankie Cicero, who was looking forward to his ordination to the transitional diaconate along with two classmates. A chronic health issue landed him in the hospital on that day instead.

Then there was Ivan Rojas, who had trained for months to be able to walk the Way of St. James, a 600-mile pilgrimage through Spain and France. By day three of the trek, a blister on his foot was so badly infected he couldn’t bear weight on it at all.

Both men struggled to accept the cross before them, but ultimately, they did. Frankie became Dcn. Frankie Cicero in a separate ordination liturgy. Rojas was off his feet for three days, but managed to complete the life-changing hike.

Dcn. Cicero told me that on the day he was to have been originally ordained, he sat before the Blessed Sacrament, telling God, “I have been waiting and fighting for this day for the last six or seven years. I’ve fought to get here. You can’t ask me to do this! And the Lord quite simply said, ‘Will you go to the hospital with Me?’”

Sometimes the Lord speaks to us in the silence and sometimes He speaks to us through others. For Rojas, it was his wife. When he texted her that he’d been sidelined by injury, she told him, “There are two crosses. The one of pain, and the other of resignation.”

Rojas pushed himself as hard as he could but was unable to bear weight on his foot. All he wanted to do was to walk to the church where he would encounter a relic of the true cross!

Ordination. Venerating an awesome treasure of the Church. Both laudable, holy goals, right? So why did God allow these men’s paths to be a bit more circuitous? And why does He sometimes say no to the most ardent pleas for ostensibly noble gifts? A baby. A healing from cancer. The restoration of a broken relationship.

When you’re in the midst of that valley, the last thing you want to hear is an overused, pious platitude from well-meaning friends and family. Don’t be afraid to share your frustration with God. Your anger and fear don’t shock Him. In fact, when you lay bare your heart before the One who made it, and then listen carefully, you will hear His whisper.

I had a conversation with God like that once not long ago and it went like this: “I can’t believe You let this happen to me! All I wanted was to serve You!” I was flying down the freeway in my Honda Accord when it happened. And do you know what He said?

“I’m right here beside you. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to do anything. Just be in My presence.” It was a profound experience of prayer, and I was going 65 (OK, 70) at the time. Bottom line: He’s everywhere — especially in the middle of the mess — and He longs to share His love with you. Today. Now.

So, yes, go to the chapel, pray the Rosary, serve at the soup kitchen. But when your heart is broken, fly to Him, wherever you are, and tell Him everything. And in the midst of disappointment and heartbreak, He will empower you to embrace your cross. He will console you and show you that He has something even better in mind for you. Something so good, you never would have dreamed of it on your own.

God never disappoints.

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