I want RELIEF!

Just before my 8-Day retreat, a good, wise and faith-filled friend emailed me some pre-retreat advice.

Sit quietly with the Lord. Allow any and all defects to rise, let Him identify them, don’t go digging around. Receive each wound, pain, defect and in your imagination bring them to the open side of Christ. Offer them to Him for healing, not relief but healing.

That last phrase both startled me and frightened me. ‘No,’ I thought. ‘I want relief! I want a break from pain, a quick-fix from struggle; but not major surgery.’

However, the truth was that the soul of the Lord’s ‘living word’ to me during the retreat was precisely that message: not relief, but redemption. Not a quick-fix, but a long term solution. To stop dousing your wounds with fleeting pain-killers and allow them to remain open before God in un-busied silence, receptive stillness, consenting trust.

In fact, by coincidence, my guiding Scripture for the retreat from my spiritual director was Exodus 14:14.

Be Healed!

During those days healing came to mean allowing God to rectify the inner wreckage, to bring gently to light the truth beneath my dis-ease. Christ invited me to freely cooperate with His grace by changing my distorted thinking in specific areas, and so uprooting those old, dead-end habits that flow from that thinking — habits that have always merely served to skirt the real issues at hand.

In particular, God made me aware of the role that the ubiquitous cultural malaise of compulsive busyness and ceaseless noise play in preventing me from going deeper, in keeping me from permitting God to go deeper into my heart and mind. As I mentioned the other day, being stripped for 8 days of busyness and noise (especially technology-noise) renders you remarkably defenseless before God.

How clear it became to me that when you consecrate significant and consistent time to Him in disposed silent prayer, a purifying, transforming and wholly Kindly fire grows within. And I came to see so very clearly, as Chesterton did, that the real solution to all the problematic people around me is my own salvation. St. Seraphim of Sarov’s seemingly naïve phrase became vividly real for me: ‘Be at peace yourself, and thousands around you will be saved.’


Noise and busyness that crowd out inner silence are a fleeting doses of anesthesia, while daily silence and stillness in prayer before the ‘open side of Christ’ are a tacit consent for the Divine Physician to do heart and brain surgery. Frightening and startling, until you finally surrender to and trust those skilled Hands that do no harm, but labor to heal and restore the luster and beauty of the divine image stamped deep within us.

Make space daily for prayerful stillness before Christ, and don’t count its success by measures of psychological performance, but by the power of your daily choice to simply stop and surrender in those set-aside moments to the ineffable healing grace of God.

And if you object that your many children, jobs, responsibilities preclude you from indulging in the luxury of lengthy quiet time for God, think of the advice I once heard given by a wise monk to a busy mom of eight: “If all you can spare each day for God is five minutes of prayerful silence locked in the cell of your bathroom, be faithful to that daily five minutes and God will consider it as great a gift as the five hours offered each day by a contemplative nun.”

8 comments on “I want RELIEF!

  1. Br Patick says:

    Love these reflections, Tom. God bless you!

  2. Exodus 14:14 has been a part of my daily set of prayers for a bit over two years now. It is part of a chain I start as the day awakens me to remind myself that healing takes silence of the mind and spirit. When “loudness” shakes my interior, I can prevent healing and/or uproot and destroy healing seeds which have been planted and are at work in me. Surrender is the only permanent way out of the wounds which we carry. Fortunately, the Savior who desires our redemption – so much that he gave his life – is worthy of this total trust and will not abandon us to pains that never will heal without his healing power.

  3. oneview says:

    The phrase you quote from St. Seraphim of Sarov, ‘Be at peace yourself, and thousands around you will be saved’ is a perfect complement to the Scripture I am focusing on today from Matt 5:46-48. ‘For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

    I recently read a helpful interpretation of the word ‘perfect’ that suggested the Father’s perfection to be completeness and wholeness, and thus to be at peace with yourself. So many people are looking for peace amongst the busyness and noise of their lives that when they see peacefulness it is like a cool stream under a shady tree on a humid Iowa summer day!

    • That’s a great insight into ‘peace’ vis-a-vis perfection. The Greek for ‘perfect,’ teleios, really does mean complete, having reached the end/goal for which something is suited. And I agree that to be around these ‘completed’ people is like a cool and refreshing stream in NOLA and Iowa! 🙂 I know some personally…

  4. Judy Svendsen says:

    I was taking time out of my schedule to catch up on your blog. This one is perfect for today. I had a huge test. It did not go well, but before I took it, I took some time for a little prayer. I felt so much more at ease after putting it in the Lord’s hands. It’s been over 20 years since taking a college test. I know I can get back into this with the assignments and tests to come. Taking a little time for prayer today helped me put this one behind me, not dwell on it, and move on. Thanks again for being there!!

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