Father Ignatius sat in his favourite armchair next to the roaring log fireplace holding a cup of hot chocolate drink and enjoying a football game on TV.
Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, entered the large room in the Parish House and said that there is someone outside wanting to see the priest urgently.
"Let him in ... let him in!" said Father Ignatius as he switched off the TV, "don't keep him out in the freezing cold."
Moments later, Jason, a young parishioner came in and sat on the couch opposite the priest. He was obviously very distraught and within seconds he poured out his heart to the kind old priest who sat there listening quietly. It wasn't a major problem or difficulty as such, but in the eyes of a young man, his personal crisis at the time seemed insurmountable.
"To be honest, Father," ended Jason, "I doubt very much that God loves me. Don't misunderstand me. I believe in God all right; I just think He is not as loving or caring as we are led to believe! Otherwise I would not be in this situation."
Father Ignatius waited for a second or two until Jason had calmed down and then asked him, "Does your father love you?"
"Of course," replied the young man.
"How do you know?" asked the priest.
"Well ... I just know. It is obvious that he does!" Jason said somewhat irritated.
"That's good," continued Father Ignatius gently, "you know your father loves you because of what he does, and because of his loving behaviour towards you?"
Jason nodded silently.
"And right now," the priest went on, "you do not have that same feeling towards God. You do not see any evidence of His love for you. You feel He has let you down. Abandoned you. Jesus felt like that on the Cross, you know."
Jason nodded again.
"We often feel that the love of God is far away from us," said the priest, "we do not feel as protected and sheltered from evil things as we would like. Let's try a little experiment. Let's see things from God's perspective, not that this is possible. He is God and we are not. So we can't possibly see things from His perspective. But let's try ...
"Imagine for a moment that you are God. There's a building site somewhere with bad safety procedures. A major accident happens and many are dead and injured. People blame God, you, for allowing it to happen. How do you feel?"
"Well ..." hesitated Jason, "you said it had a bad safety system, so I think it's not God's fault really ..."
"Exactly," Father Ignatius continued calmly, "we tend to blame God for allowing bad things to happen but we don't see our contribution to those happenings. But that aside, let's look at what choice God has. He could do nothing and allow bad things to happen sometimes. Or He could do something about it. He could somehow get the building site managers to see the error of their ways, and if they don't react positively, He could somehow let their bosses know ... you understand what I mean?"
"But if God were to do that," said the priest, "then He would be a kind of Superman like in the movies, flying from one place to another putting things to right and stopping wrong from happening. Hardly free will for us, is it? We would all be like little robots reacting to His every decision and action.
"But God loves us ... even if we don't feel it sometimes, like you right now for example. He sometimes pulls back and allows bad things to happen. It doesn't mean that He doesn't love us. Of course He does, and He hurts with us when bad things like disasters happen. But there is a very fine line between interfering and stopping bad things from happening, and being there alongside us to comfort us, to help us and to love us when they do.
"God loves you, Jason. He knows you are suffering right now and He wants you to trust Him. You can't understand why He allows some things to happen, but then, He never asked us to understand Him, but to trust Him and love Him in return."
Jason wiped the corner of his eye with his sleeve.
"Let us say a prayer together," continued Father Ignatius, "in the sure knowledge that God's love will find a way to comfort you and help you in your situation."
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