A couple of weeks ago, I posted something written by someone else, titled “Everything,” about how God works through Everything, including life’s joys and life’s painful losses, and all of it is in some way a gift from God. While she is Protestant, what she wrote is also very Catholic. We believe the same things that she wrote.
I thought at the time that I would like to write something else titled “Nothing” about another side of the joys and sufferings of life.
I cannot match my friend's very personal tone, as she wrote while going through a very painful time in life. Whatever I could write would have to seem impersonal by comparison. If I tried to match her emotional depth, it would be pretense. In many ways, this post says nothing more than what she wrote, because the point is still God's everything. But I hope that I have found something to say simply that rings true and is worth saying. Here it is:
Nothing that comes into my life should become an idol, drawing my attention or affections away from God. Nothing (people I love, people I find irritating; things I own, things I would like to own; things I do, things I would like to do).
The word Nothing teaches us about the Crucifixion, in which Jesus was made as if nothing, and about what it means to take up our cross and follow Him. (Matt. 10:38)
So I can see in every loss I have had in life a greater understanding of the Cross, a means of experiencing something more of what Christ experienced on the Cross. And everything I have had of joy and beauty can be valued according to whether it has drawn me closer to God, so as to give it eternal worth. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.” (Ps. 73:26)
Col. 3:23-24 Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ. – Nothing we receive in this life can match the eternal inheritance that can only be given by God.
Luke 14:33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Nothing should detain us from doing the will of God.
Phil. 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Nothing, not even life itself, should matter to us as compared to Christ himself.
Col. 1:28-29 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. – Nothing gives us eternity except by God’s grace, preventing us from being proud in God’s presence.
I Tim. 6:6-8 There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. – Nothing that we have will go with us from this life, so we should be content with what we have.
Rom. 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Nothing will separate us from God’s love, and we are conquerors even in our suffering and persecution.
To this can be added the words of the mystics who wrote about how our acceptance of such nothingness can lead us toward a closer relationship in unity with God:
Julian of Norwich: “The saints that be in Heaven, they will to know nothing but that which our Lord wills to show them: and also their charity and their desire is ruled after the will of our Lord: and thus we ought to will, like them. Then we shall will or desire nothing but the will of our Lord, as they do: for we are all one in God’s seeing.” Revelations of Divine Love.
St. John of the Cross: “And thus nothing else is said in Holy Scripture to have been commanded by God to be put in the Ark, where the manna was, except the book of the Law and the rod of Moses, which signifies the Cross. For the soul that aspires to nothing other than keeping the law of the Lord perfectly and bearing the Cross of Christ will be a true Ark, containing within itself the true manna, which is God, when that soul attains to a perfect possession within itself of this law and this rod, without any other thing soever.” The Ascent of Mt. Carmel.