Faith & Spirituality,  Musings

“Congratulations!”

That’s what the priest told me in the confessional when I went to confession recently.

The past 6 months have been a struggle. I experienced spiritual fatigue, burn out, betrayal, doubt, persecution, hurt, loneliness. I also stepped down from my position in ministry to take care of my non-community priorities, and with it came speculation, rumors, gossip. Some people I thought were my friends weren’t friends, after all. I stopped talking to most people because I didn’t know whom I could trust.

True story.

“Ano ba yan, Lord,” I sulked. “Ginagawa ko lang naman yung pinapagawa Mo sakin.”

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 ESV

I got this verse recently though from a Scripture jar I draw from randomly, and with it came the sense that my 6-month struggle is done, or nearing its end. I feel that the worst is over, at least. I do feel a lot better, by God’s grace– He had held me together all throughout as I sought him in the dark, all while he was doing his work and strengthening me for something that’s to come.

“Congratulations!” the priest said upon hearing my confession. I had told him a bit about my struggles and the persecution that comes with obeying God and following His will.

“Well, Jesus didn’t use the word congratulations, actually,” the priest continued. “But He said, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for my name’s sake.'”

I brightened at the verse he gave me. I received the priest’s absolution, went out of the confessional, and did my penance in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Later that night, I looked up the rest of the verse.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 NASB

During my struggle, God reminded me that the things that were happening to me were supposed to happen to those who followed His will. I was lead to or reminded of passages in Scripture when even Jesus was betrayed by His friends, mocked, suspected for having power coming from the devil, driven away from towns after performing miracles, etc. (Spoiler: the story ends well, with God redeeming His Son). That gave me encouragement as I united my struggles with the Lord’s, and it gave me peace when I realized I was bearing spiritual fruit with all that was happening to me. So when the priest congratulated me during my confession, I felt it was God Himself congratulating me hahaha.

A sign I took a photo of from one of my solo retreats at the start of this year

I did wonder, though, why the Holy Spirit never put to my mind the particular verse the priest gave me. He could’ve reminded me of it or lead me to open my Bible to Matthew 5. It’s a passage I’m not unfamiliar with, but not once during those 6 months did I come across or remember that particular verse. Sana pinaalala Mo man lang sakin, Lord, I thought.

The Lord gently reminded me, “So you not only hear directly from Me, but through other people I use, too.”

(Buddy Christ header image from imgur)

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