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Mustard Seed Faith

August 25, AD2016

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Back in high school, my shop teacher had us recite the abbreviated version Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer, the first sentence of the prayer popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. At the time, I had no idea why we recited it at the beginning of each class.

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.

Amen.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr~

Though the 18-year-old version of me knew there were problems in the world, I lived a rather sheltered life. But over the course of the next 15 years, I’ve found myself frequently coming back to this prayer. There’s something so beautifully simple, yet encouraging, about these words.

Let’s face it, life is tough! It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you believe, we all have trouble in our lives. Some of us have had our hearts broken, spouses who walked out on us, jobs that suddenly became redundant, loved ones who passed on way too soon, health that rapidly deteriorated, and so forth.  Sometimes, especially if there’s a prolonged period of suffering, we may even begin to fear God, doubt that He’s on our side, or question if He even still loves us. And, if a person has gone through a multitude of these occurrences and doubts at once, it’s then that we may start wondering: Why? Is there still something worth living for? Where’s God in all of this?

God Does Hear Our Prayers

Maybe we’ve read the book of Job and thought he was a fool for staying true to God throughout all his hardships. Or maybe we’ve thought that it wasn’t right for God to make a wager with Satan over Job’s salvation. Personally, I’ve always had trouble with that. Whether it’s based on a real-life event, or is meant to be seen as an allegory, the book of Job has left me with more questions than answers.

In the past few years, I’ve had quite a few unexpected things happen in my own life: hospitalization, surgery, long-awaited answers to some of my prayers, a brand new and exciting job, etc. Did I remain steadfast in praying? Believing and trusting in God’s providence and timing? I’d be lying if I said “Yes, always.”

There were months and years when was I achingly, patiently, waiting for an answer. For joy, peace, reassurance, strength, courage, healing, and blessings to come back into my life. There were long dark nights when I couldn’t sleep at all because I was so torn up with pain, questions, doubts, fear, and desperation. There were even times when I questioned if God was there at all and if He was, and He heard my prayers, then was He maybe leaving the phone off the hook. But He brought me through the bad and the broken times.

Faith The Size of a Mustard Seed

Just recently, a group of friends and I got together to study scripture. A priest friend of ours was also present at the meeting. During the course of discussion our priest friend brought up Jesus’ quote about the mustard seed.

“For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20

After asking what it personally meant to each of us, the priest expanded on some historical facts about that statement.  In Jesus’ day the mustard plant was considered a common weed. It was everywhere and so prolific that it had become a nuisance. It was something people readily disposed of. To His contemporaries at the time, Jesus’ words would’ve been thought of as scandalous because matters of faith were considered something “high and lofty.” Scribes and Pharisees, for example, were revered for their holiness just because they were so far removed from the problems and concerns of the average person on the street. And this is the problem that Jesus ultimately had with the Scribes and Pharisees.

What Jesus was trying to show the people in his time, as well as today, is that faith can be found in the simplest of things. Faith isn’t something that’s unattainable for the common man or woman. We don’t need to “get right with God” for Him to love and bless us. In fact, it’s when we’re in the midst of our trials and sufferings that we should turn our eyes to God. And, if we truly take Christ at His word, then all we need is a little bit of faith. We only need to trust in God’s promise that He will “never leave nor forsake” us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Paul is happily married. Both he and his wife, Marjorie, reside on the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland. They're eager first-time owners of a house. He is the Youth Ministry Leader for Fusion at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Abbottstown, PA, as well as an activities director at a nearby retirement community. Ever the creative type, Paul is an avid writer, actor, filmmaker, artist, and musician. He's also extremely passionate about his Catholic faith.

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  • Missy

    Very nice article. It’s true that when things get tough we often wonder where God is. However, after the storm has lessened it often amazing looking back and seeing that God was there the whole time. Thank you also for the historical lesson about the mustard seed. That has brought a whole new meaning to that verse to me. Thanks