A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re hanging onto

Bill Farrelly

by Bill Farrelly

Back in the 1980s, in the lounge room of my Mum’s modest little apartment, there was a cheap framed print depicting a kitten clinging onto the outside of a wicker basket by his front claws. Below him was a void. He was probably too young to know that cats always land on all fours.

Well, they do, don’t they? No matter, what is important here is the caption that accompanied that endearing picture: Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re clinging onto.

I have often recalled those words when my own faith has taken yet another battering and I have not been strong enough to believe as I have so often proclaimed to believe.

Is there anything more difficult than having faith? Anyone?hang_in_there

I wrote recently of the 12-step programme I embarked upon almost two years ago and which has since brought the greatest peace I have ever known. I rejoice every day for the blessings this programme gives me.

Nevertheless, my separation from my wife – brought about by the addiction that led me, finally, to the programme – continues to cause me enormous sadness and loneliness and it is in this area that I struggle most with faith.

But recently I read something that has given me great encouragement and has helped me to try to be more trusting in God’s will as opposed to Bill’s will.

It is an extract from a little book called Courage to Change – One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II. For those of you not familiar, 12-step programmes talk of our Higher Power. The reason for this is that many people struggle to believe in God but those same people can grasp the concept of a power greater than themselves. Frequently, these same people come to believe that their higher power is in fact God – that is, they come to belive in God.

For me and probably for all of you, we immediately know that our higher power is God. Here is the passage that has strengthened my faith:

“My Higher Power’s gifts sometimes take unusual forms. Perhaps something I regard as a problem is really a form of assistance”.

So, one interpretation of that, in my situation, is that being separated, being lonely, may in hindsight turn out to have been great blessings. That being so, I can be more trusting, have more faith, that God knows what is best.

Each day I pray for the willingness and the desire to do God’s will in all things. The more sincere I am, the more I practise doing what I think is God’s will, the happier and more peaceful I am.

I can say unequivocally that – loneliness and regret aside – in terms of serenity, my life now is at a pinnacle.I have found too that the more of my life I surrender each day to God, the more peaceful my life is. Among my ever-growing list are these (and you will see they are not all negatives):

Resentment, envy, pride, judgementalness, hunger for affirmation, sentimentality, vanity, fear, anxiety, regret, self-pity, lack of faith, lack of trust, sadness, dreams and the list goes on.

Some of those may seem odd – dreams, for example – but I am often disturbed by dreams and as I believe they are, sometimes at least, indirect messages from God, I am frustrated when I cannot understand them. A few months ago, almost despairing, I decided to simply hand them to God saying that I accept the discomfort.

As my own handwriting is atrocious, I can forgive God His convoluted messages. Just joking, God.

Two years ago the last thing I wanted to do was surrender control of my life. It is incredible now to look back and realise that I never had control of my life – I was in fact out of control.

Having now decided to hand my life and my will over to God I rejoice in the innumerable blessings that have come my way.

What a paradox – surrendering control has given me the first real control I have ever had.

Thanks, God.  

© Bill Farrelly

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