One of the most perplexing puzzles in human salvation is the confrontation between taking salvation and sin seriously on one hand and, yet, feeling an almost insurmountable uselessness in one’s daily effort to save one’s soul on the other. The paradox is clear: we have to take salvation seriously, but the more seriously we take salvation, the more impossible salvation really seems.
After all, we are very imperfect, inconsistent, cowardly, weak, selfish, judgmental, and hypocritical creatures. Chained to our own limitations, yet confronted with the sheer magnitude of Christ’s example of humble, loving, and unconditional service and love; we are left with a seemingly, almost pathetically impossible, task of saving our souls, never mind that of others.
Given the above bleak challenge, it is easy to imagine how many give up and surrender the ship before it even sails, much less confronts the storms it will surely face. Why try to be good and help others when we can barely keep our heads above water trying to swim across this raging sea of corruption, sin, evil, and selfishness? How can we be expected to “grow up” and act like responsible followers of Christ when we more closely resemble moral children?
Therein is the paradox that torments all of us from time to time, and blocks our clear vision and path to eternal salvation. Namely, how can we be God’s children and yet not act like children?
Certainly, the devil gleefully invites us to surrender to this struggle, reminding us at every turn just how unfair, unrealistic, and demanding God must be for expecting anything near the perfection of Christ from such moral misfits and rejects as we surely are. We have been propped up to lose, like twisted puppets, by a God who surely must enjoy treating us like piñatas He can bash whenever possible.
However, we must remember that the above thinking is loser thinking from the biggest loser and prince of lies who wants nothing more than as many companions in hell as he can get. A wonderful trio of saints shows us the secret to salvation, happiness, trust, peace, and simplicity in a world which thrives on pessimism, sadness, mistrust, cynicism, conflict, and complication.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori tells us that the secret to peace and happiness in this world is uniformity and surrender to God’s Will. According to this profound saint, much of the sin and struggle in our lives comes from the fanciful and false notion that we have a clue what is right for us, much less what we are doing, in the daily journey toward saving our souls.
If only we can surrender all to God’s Will, he argues, our path will become that much simpler, attainable, and peaceful. Our saint concludes that we worry less when we offer whatever happens, good or bad, in our lives, as the result of God’s Will and leave things at that.
If much, if not all, of our daily struggle comes from our efforts to help ourselves, or even please God, then, reasons the saint, cannot simply accepting all as the Will of God not help us reach the same ultimate goal of saving our souls with much less struggle and worry?
St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, and St. Faustina, the apostle of Divine Mercy, both argued that we must trust in God completely, and use everything in our lives, no matter how small, as an opportunity to show love of God and others. Combined with the insight of Alphonsus, we may rightfully ask why more people do not realize that complete, child-like trust in God’s Will can result in the kind of contentment, solace, peace, patience, and maturity that can only lead us closer to God.
Therein is the irony of this discussion. Namely, that salvation is not found by acting like children act, but rather by trusting and loving as children do.
Yes, saving our souls often seems like such a tall order as to be an absurd proposition. However, the secret to solving this absurd puzzle may be found in surrendering ourselves in total trust to the Will of God, and accepting all that comes our way as part of that Will.
Sin is born in selfishness, and convincing ourselves that we know best. Salvation, on the other hand, is the product of unselfish humility, and realizing that God always what is best for us.