“You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and fix them as an emblem on your forehead.” Deuteronomy 11:18
I am slowly working my way through Father Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast. (Anybody else?) I’m woefully behind, but I am determined to see it through to completion.
My favorite thing about reading – or listening to – the Bible is when a verse just jumps out at me, and I recognize its relevance to something that is happening in my life. The Word of God is indeed “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and the Holy Spirit is so good to give us the wisdom and insight to make connections and apply what it says. It’s the idea behind the practice of lectio divina.
Last week I was listening to day 61. The first reading was from Numbers 13, when the Israelites were anticipating entering the Promised Land after so many years wandering the desert. Spies were sent by Moses into the land of Canaan to assess the land and the people living there. When the spies came back, they reported that the land was flowing with milk and honey, but that the cities were fortified and people there were giant. They concluded that they would not be able to go up against them to take the land and spread word among the Israelites that it was hopeless. The Israelites would go on, in the next chapter, to wail and weep, wishing they had just died in Egypt or in the desert.
They completely abandoned hope.
The second reading was from Deuteronomy 11. In it, as in the previous chapters of Deuteronomy, the Lord is reminding the Israelites of the commandment to love and serve Him. He is reminding them of all that He has done for them as His chosen people – the covenants with their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bringing them out of Egypt, the miracles that happened with the Red Sea, and the manna, and the pillars of smoke and fire that they had seen with their own eyes. He reminds them of the covenant He wrote with His own hand upon the stone tablets, and that if they but keep His commands and serve Him, He will give them this land that He has promised. He tells them that He himself tends the land and it will be prosperous and good for them.
He reminds them that He loves them and has done great things for them, and that His plans for them are good.
And then He tells them to write down the commands He has given them so that they won’t forget. Bind them to your hands, fix them on your foreheads, write them on your doorposts, teach them to your children. Don’t forget!
It reminded me how quickly I can forget all the good things the Lord has done when life gets difficult. I forget His promises. I forget His love for me.
When my daughters died, my heart felt shattered, and I wondered if maybe He had forgotten me. It felt hard to pray to Him because I was devastated, and my suffering felt insurmountable, like that fortified city full of giants must have felt to the Israelites.
Was I not praying with enough faith?
Was he withdrawing His presence from me?
Why did some people experience miraculous healing of their loved ones, but I did not?
How could He be a loving Father and allow something like this to happen?
As the writer in Lamentations 3:17 says, I had forgotten what happiness was.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope,” the author goes on. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
Recalling the faithfulness of the Lord to us is one of the best ways to overcome our sorrow. In fact, contemplating truth is one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ five remedies for sorrow. In my retreats for grieving mothers (and couples), we talk about how helpful this is.
The Hebrew people used to – and some still do – wear a small leather pouch on their arms and around their heads called a tefillin that contained a scroll with the Lord’s commands and promises. They had a small box called a mezuzah on their doorpost that contained these scrolls, too.
As Catholics, we have the Eucharist. We have the crucifix. We have the scapular and our sacramental objects. We have images of the saints who have gone before us – the most revered of whom have also overcome great suffering and martyrdom with exemplary faith in the Lord’s goodness and love for them. And we have the Bible – the very Word of God.
In it we read:
that He is good (Psalm 34:8)
that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8)
that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28)
that He is trustworthy (Proverbs 3:5)
that we are known by Him (Jeremiah 1:5)
that we are loved by Him (Luke 12:7)
If you are suffering or experiencing a trial, I encourage you to call to mind the truth that God has revealed about Himself and put these words in your heart and soul.