Question 53

How can we receive what God bestows graciously?

The faith-filled man begins to treat this world with indifference.  Suddenly he is not lifted up when prosperity comes his way, nor is he crushed under adversity, but he learns to praise God in all things…We should receive it all with God’s praise in our mouths, regardless of the nature of the gift, because we praise the Giver, not the gift.

from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger


Though it be that our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places (Eph 6:12), we are not caught in a cosmic battle of equally balanced light and dark locked in an eternal struggle.  Though his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth (Rev 12:4) and a third of the angelic choirs of heaven wrathed into demons, we are not caught in a lopsided war with the demonic hoards easily outmatched by the heavenly hosts.  Rather, the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas; and hath prepared it upon the rivers (Psa 23:1-2), for all that is in heaven, and in earth, is Thine: Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art above all princes (1 Chr 29:11b) for in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and in Him (Col 1:16), every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration (Jam 1:17).

It is only when we begin to truly understand that the Lord is both God and Good that we can understand how we are to receive those things that come from Him.  If the Lord is God, then He is not at war with those that He has created.  For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth, and made it, the very maker thereof: he did not create it in vain: he formed it to be inhabited. “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I have not said to the seed of Jacob: Seek me in vain. I am the Lord that speak justice, that declare right things” (Isa 45:18-19).  Rather, those that He has created are the ones who are at war with Him.  And what a vain war it is!  For who should ascend the mountain of the Lord to establish his thorn above Him? What ruin should that bring to make war upon the Lord of all? (cfr. Isa 45:11-21).

God is sovereign over all; He is in control.  The things that come in and out of our lives are in His control; He wills that they be and they are, He wills that they be permitted and they come.  Here below, we who are in the thick of it might perceive life as being tossed to and frow, like a ship upon the waves, all the while our Lord sleeps (cfr. Mat 8:23-27). This though is our warped perception of things and the temptation to despair of the Lord being in control of all things, that He really is God after all.

To understand that our Lord is good is to reject a capricious character of the things that come and go in our lives.  If God is good, then He wants our good.  After all, He created us for a reason which, if He is indeed good, is not to be a plaything of His to grow tired of but to be a recipient of those good things that He has planned for us from all eternity. The evils of this world, of the flesh, of the devil, futility war against God.  That they are, that they have being and exist, is because of Him and nothing in their own power (this is true of all things).  Even these evil things are necessarily part of His plan, of His will, even if they remain to us as the mystery of iniquity (cfr. 2 Thes 2:7-12).   If He has planned for us, and prepared for us to receive, then what of the evils that come and go?  I am, I am the Lord: and there is no saviour besides me. And from the beginning I am the same, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall turn it away (Isa 43:11,13)? Let them pass as so much smoke.

To understand that our Lord is good is likewise to reject that the good gifts of God that come and go into our lives are meant as things to puff ourselves up, for us to become vain and trust in our works, our abilities, our prayers, and to revel in the sentiments that arise in us upon the receiving of good things.  God gives us good things not so that we might love the gifts or the effects that they bring, but rather love Him, the Giver of all good things.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith (Rom 3:27).

All things are for the praise of God and the reveling of Himself to creation as God and indeed a good God.  We are to receive those things that come into our lives from Him, both the good and the bad, not with a pagan nor modern nihilistic apathy but by a Christian indifference – experiencing the sorrows and joys of life, but not being swayed by them, relying upon the Lord for all things, and glorifying and praising His name at all times, praying along with Job,  the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21b).