Help For the Spiritually Challenged

Continuing from my previous post of February 22, “Trials and Tribulations, the Tender Mercies of God,” I will share another article from the same issue of the Evangelist.

Resources for Our Lenten Journey

“Help For the Spiritually Challenged”

By Susan Cushman, Editor

the Evangelist (newsletter of St. John Orthodox Church, March 1995)

Secular educators over the years have become more and more sophisticated in their efforts to meet the needs of our society’s multiple “handicaps.” There are special classes and resources available for people who have “learning disabilities,” or “attention deficit disorder.” There are “advanced” classes for those who are “gifted.” The system continues to respond to the cry for help from those who are “physically, emotionally, or mentally impaired.” All this in order to help people learn.

The Orthodox Church is ahead of the curve. It has always provided “resources” for its people. Whether you consider yourself “spiritually impaired,” “spiritually challenged,” “emotionally wounded,” or just an average pilgrim on his way, the church fathers and monastics have left us a wealth of information to help. It’s just that we don’t always like what it says.

It says that things like adultery and greed and gluttony are sin. It says to confess our sins and we’ll be healed. It says to fast and pray. It says to worship often and to give alms. It says to obey. But since so many of us find it difficult to do these things because we think we are too handicapped, we end up looking everywhere else for an easier answer to our ills.

Isn’t there a pill we can take to make everything better? Maybe there’s a group somewhere that will listen to me talk about myself and my problems every week. Surely there’s someone else out there who understands and can make me feel better about my failures. And of course, when all this struggle and strife gets intolerable, there’s certainly a world of sensuality available to make the pain go away . . . for a little while.

What’s a poor pilgrim to do? Father Troy’s article last month, “The Healing of Our Souls” addressed four things that we must do if we are to be healed: Repent, Confess, Worship, and Pray. With prayers being offered at least ten different times during the week at St. John, there is no lack for opportunity to participate there. Confession is also available numerous times throughout the week. And there are at least three opportunities for worship each week, and usually more, depending upon the calendar of feast days. Organized times for teaching and discussion are also available in the form of Inquirers Classes, Adult Education Classes, and Friday Noon Discussion Groups with reading from the Fathers. Our bookstore offers an array of helpful sources for our spiritual growth.

Then there’s the Bible. In February we received a “lectionary” or list of daily scripture readings for the year. On the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, I picked up one of these from the fellowship hall, and since the readings began that very day, I decided to try to read them for a few days. Not because the readings were designed around my personal problems, but because the fathers teach us to obey. The blessings I am receiving from reading the scriptures (almost) every day have surprised me. It’s almost as if they were written to address my own struggles! If we truly want to turn from sin and seek God (or even if we just want to want to turn from sin!) what could be more encouraging to read than the New Testament reading from the Sunday of the Prodigal Son: “I shall set my laws in their understanding and write them on their hearts; I shall be their God and they will be my people . . . . I shall pardon their wicked deeds, and their sins I shall remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:10 and 12) God’s laws written on our hearts. Forgiveness. True resources for the spiritually disabled.

We are without excuse. Let’s all encourage one another this Lenten season to use the sources available to us through the bounty of the Orthodox Church. I’ll close with a quote from the Psalm for today (February 20) in the lectionary: “Those who acknowledge your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, do not abandon those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)