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“The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

—Proverbs 16:9

IF YOU HAVEN’T SAID IT YOURSELF, NO DOUBT YOU’VE HEARD OTHERS SAY IT: “I’M SPIRITUAL, BUT NOT RELIGIOUS.”

For most, this is a laudable attempt to find a happy medium between crass materialism and fanatical zealotry. But sometimes we use this as a cop-out, since “being spiritual” requires no specific commitment. After all, the fact that we are spiritual—that we have a soul—is purely a gift from God. We all have it.

That’s not a virtue or quality of our own making.

Religion, on the other hand, is man’s expression of his spirituality. Whether this takes the form of liturgy within a church or getting down on our knees before going to bed, these religious acts are spirituality in action; they are necessary 
expressions of a relationship with God.

The wisest people, and probably the happiest people, are those who engage their spirituality and confront life’s bigger questions, including the question of God. Where do I come from? Where am I going? Is there an afterlife? Is there eternal justice? Has God revealed Himself to the world?

Not all wise people will come up with the same answers to these questions, but they will all ask them, if they choose to have such courage.

As Pope John Paul II reflected in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope,
  the question of God’s existence touches the very heart of man’s search for purpose, meaning and wisdom:

“One clearly sees that the response to the question ‘An Deus sit’ (whether God exists) is not only an issue that touches the intellect; it is, at the same time, an issue that has a strong impact on all of human existence,” wrote the Pope. “It depends on a multitude of situations in which man searches for the significance and the meaning of his own existence. Questioning God’s existence is intimately united with the purpose of human existence.”

Human beings, when we are at our best, naturally look for what is good and true. We look for transcendence, meaning, and wisdom. We feel pulled to go beyond ourselves towards the absolute. St. Augustine expresses this truth on the very first page of his Confessions
  when he says: “You have made us for Yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

At one time or another we all experience this restlessness. We long for something beyond the humdrum realities of the daily rat race. We want to know if everything ultimately makes sense or is merely the result of mindless chance. We humans seem hardwired to ask the bigger questions, including religious questions.

So, the closer we get to God, the wiser we become. This is not to say that every great believer is wise in all things, nor that non-believers cannot be wise in many things, but belief in God radically changes—indeed, rectifies—our worldview. It makes the world around us intelligible at its deepest level. Rather than chance and randomness, order and intelligence emerge as the world’s defining principles. Belief in God can lead us to finding divine purpose behind things—the life-changing conviction that God “intends” things for us and is interested in our welfare.

Do you see how integral this type of living faith is to discern what your purpose is, what God wants of you?

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this discovery of God as the origin and purpose of all creation is wedded to love. God does not just “create” us or “know” us, He loves us. What is true for the grand scale is also true for each of our lives. Jesus declared that not even a sparrow falls from the sky without God knowing it, and He assured His followers that His care for us human beings is far greater. He meant this to strengthen our trust in God, and our belief in His providence in our lives.

Religious faith doesn’t merely offer a framework to better understand the universe or even our own lives. It isn’t even just an intellectual pursuit that stops with conviction regarding God’s existence. We can talk about God theoretically, but we can never begin to understand who He is or what He wants of us until we let Him into our lives. The “God question” should always touch every part of who we are. To the degree that we let God into our lives, He will come in as a welcomed guest and our friendship will grow.

This willingness to fall in love with God and listen to His voice requires trust. “What will He say to me?” we wonder. “What might He ask of me?” This is where faith is experienced as both the problem and the solution. While it is a bit scary for us to listen to God’s voice, if we have truly encountered His love, we are even more consoled to know God will never ask of us anything that is not the very best for us.

So we find ourselves in need of courage. We need courage to engage our soul in the pursuit of God, to transform God-given spirituality into a religious response of love. We need courage not only to change the things we can, but also to dare to confront the larger questions life offers, to seek wisdom in God Himself and His purpose and plan for all of His creation, beginning with each of us.

 

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