Why doesn’t God fix this?

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Scripture says, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you” (Matt 7:7).

One of my New Year’s resolutions: pray more.

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I know that God can do all things and that He loves me with a perfect love. He desires what is best for me and wants me to trust Him and turn to Him in all things. I know this. Yet I often struggle with prayer.

God has answered my prayers in amazing ways, and I’ve seen Him answer the prayers of others. But many prayers are left unanswered or the answer is “no.” This or that person that I pray for goes on suffering under illness or hardship. I do not receive what I ask for or find what I am seeking. The door remains closed.

In this post, I’m going to consider why.

I love the Catechism of the Catholic Church because it covers just about every subject related to faith and morals. So I’ve turned to the sections on prayer and made some notes.

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part” (CCC 2725).

  • Prayer is a mystery that goes beyond science and reason.
  • Being constant in prayer takes effort–don’t I know it!–prayer is a battle!
  • The devil doesn’t want me to do it because he knows it will draw me closer to God.
  • Prayer is not reaching a mental void. It is seeking God.
  • It cannot be reduced to ritual words or postures.
  • I can never use the excuse “I don’t have time” because I can pray anywhere, anytime, no matter what I’m doing!
  • Prayer is never “a waste of time” because the mission of life is to know, love, and serve God.
  • Prayer does not come from me alone, but from the Holy Spirit.
  • Prayer is being caught up in the beauty and glory of the living and true God.
  • Prayer does not take me from the world, like an escape from reality. It prepares me for the world.
  • Periods of dryness in prayer do not mean failure, and I shouldn’t get discouraged.
  • Prayer is more difficult if I have not given all to the Lord.
  • Having a regular prayer life doesn’t mean I’m going to get what I want!

Okay, this brings me back to my first thought. The Catechism has much more on the subject, but I need time to absorb what I’ve read so far. I return to the question: why don’t I get what I ask for? Perhaps I have not been asking with faith and humility.

Maybe. But I also believe that God allows for disappointments, setbacks, failure, illnesses, and loss because He is purifying us and calling us closer to Himself. He is giving us something greater than what we ask for.

“Son though he was, he learned obedience through his sufferings” (Hebrews 5:8).

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If Jesus learned from it, we can learn from it. Perhaps He is even preparing us through our experience to be there for someone else in the future.

When I think about the struggles and suffering I’ve faced in the past, I realize that they are a big part of who I am today. Maybe the trials of the future will not be as daunting to me because of what I’ve experienced in the past. Perhaps the difficulties I’ve lived through have prepared me to be the person I need to be for my family and friends today.

Does God answer your prayers? Do you know anyone whom God has physically healed as a result of prayer? Why do you think God does not heal everyone who asks? In Roland West, Loner the power of prayer comes to light, and characters consider why God does not always give us what we ask for. I would love for you to share your experience in the comments section.

Theresa Linden is the author of the Chasing Liberty trilogy and Roland West, Loner.

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My Little Autistic Boy

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Before our first child, my understanding of autism came from movies and TV shows that had a character with savant syndrome, like Rain Man and Mercury Rising. The autistic character displayed obvious social deficits but demonstrated exceptional abilities in another area.

After our first child, my understanding of autism changed. 

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Joseph’s selfie

Autism refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive behaviors and difficulty with communication and social interaction. It can manifest itself in a countless number of ways. No two children with autism are alike. They certainly don’t all have savant syndrome.

Having an autistic child in the house gives everything a unique twist. Parents and siblings learn survival skills that just aren’t needed in the ordinary household.

Some of our challenges:

  • Joseph developed an obsession with light bulbs, so we had to change every light fixture in the house to keep him safe. When someone invited us over, we had to ask, “Do you have lamps?”
  • His love of fishing–even in the bathtub–made us hyper-vigilant to the sound of water running in the house. “Joseph, is that you filling the tub?”
  • We had to install keyed deadbolts to keep him from wandering off.
  • No pets in the house that are small enough to toss.
  • If you’re missing a key, check his room.
  • If he comes around with a camera, hide. He’s not interested in taking a “nice” picture. He’ll get a shot of your foot, your half-closed eyes, or a close up of your balding head.

Some solutions came late. Joseph, now fifteen, was a very uncomfortable baby. He always wanted held and could never sleep through the night alone. Despite the advice of well-meaning friends and acquaintances, Joseph slept in our bed for years. When he grew too big, we finally transferred him to his own bed, but we had to squeeze into it and sleep with him until he fell asleep. I can hear some of my readers gasping. But this worked for our exhausted family. Whatever technique you’re thinking of, we tried that. It wasn’t until we got a dog from Wags for Kids, an organization that trains dogs for special needs children, that Joseph slept in his own bed . . . with the dog, of course.

Also due to the autism, we’ve faced many joys. Parents with special needs children will relate. Joseph reached his developmental milestones way later than typical children did. He learned to crawl, to walk, to say his first word, to put three words together . . . months or years later than his peers. Nothing can compare to the joy and pride we experienced when he finally did these things.

“He used the potty instead of his diaper!” He was four years old when we could boast about that greatly-longed-for milestone.

We are blessed to have a happy, silly boy who is very social, makes eye contact, and loves hugs. Not all autistic children are this way. He is now fifteen and has grown into a happy and social teenager with a variety of interests including bowling, fishing, taking pictures, and serving Mass. He is very proud of his accomplishments. We’re proud, too.

While a part of me wishes God would heal him of the autism, the rest of me doesn’t worry about it. I love him just the way he is. He is a special and irreplaceable part of our family. I can’t imagine life without him and all his quirky behaviors.

Joseph inspired me to base a character in one of my books on him. Toby Brandt, Peter’s younger brother in Roland West, Loneris modeled after Joseph. Everything that Toby does, Joseph does or did. This character was fun to write!

Our little autistic boy has given us so many memories, so much hope, and filled our hearts with love. I do not want to downplay the challenges a family faces when they have an autistic family member, but for us, life with him has been an adventure.

Do you have a sibling or know someone with autism? What challenges do you face in having a sibling or classmate with autism? I would love to hear about your experience. Please share it in the comments.

Theresa Linden is the author of the Chasing Liberty trilogy, and Roland West, Loner, first in a series of Catholic teen fiction.

Our Miracle

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“I want to adopt twelve children!” That was me as a little girl. I could picture myself married to a man who would love life, our home full of laughter and chaos, children of all ages everywhere. I had no idea that seven years into marriage my husband and I would be sitting at Catholic Charities, seeking adoption because we were unable to conceive.

I believe God plants seeds in our hearts that will blossom later, if we let them.

My husband and I went through the lengthy process of self-evaluation, home study interviews, and filling out forms. We sought out people to write letters of recommendation, and we created an adoption profile. Then we waited.

Waiting seems to be a very big part of God’s plan for each of us, perhaps because it gives us opportunities to practice virtues like patience and trust. It can lead to deeper self-evaluation and spiritual growth. Or it can make a person impatient!

During this time of waiting, we did several things. First, I began intense prayers to the Blessed Mother, asking for her intercession so that I could become a mother, too. Second, wanting to draw closer to God and embrace a spirit of simplicity and poverty, my husband and I began formation as Secular Franciscans. A year or so after completing our home study, still waiting, we decided to take up a project. So we bought an old fixer-upper and threw ourselves into remodeling it.

I can still remember the day we received the phone call. The sun hid behind a sheet of winter clouds, making the day cold, damp, and gray. My husband had gone to work while I worked on the house. In the evenings we would work together. I don’t remember the specific task that day. I was probably pulling out old things, like carpet and paneling, or scraping plaster from ancient walls.

When the phone rang, I picked my way through the living room and dining room, weaving around tool boxes and buckets of drywall mud, plastic bags of supplies, and stacks of drywall and trim. Several walls stood bare to their 2x4s, awaiting new drywall.

I answered the phone and received the news: a pregnant young woman wanted us to adopt her baby!

This news should’ve filled me with great joy, but as I hung up the phone my gaze traveled across the disaster of our fixer upper and my heart sank. Our house would need to be inspected and approved before we could bring a baby into it. This did not seem possible. We did not have the money to hire professionals, and the work was too extensive for us to complete in time.

I am sure I am not the only person who notices that God likes to spring the hope of good news on us when it seems impossible to obtain.

Tempted by doubt and anger, tears streaming down my face, I ran to the bedroom and fell on my knees. “Why, Lord?” I wanted to trust, so I asked for a sign. Opening my Bible randomly, I dropped my index finger on a page.

Blinking back tears, I read the verse: Romans 16:6 “Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.”

Even typing this now, tears come to my eyes and a tingling sensation washes over me.

Hope filled every corner of my being. I collapsed over the Bible, crying and thanking God. And thanking our Blessed Mother. She worked hard for me, interceding at the throne of God, at the throne of her Son, to bring our first baby into our home.

Here is what followed: People heard the news of our adoption and the trouble we were in, and they came to help. Friends, family, and complete strangers came to our house with supplies, money and assistance. Many worked long hours helping us.

With all the assistance, both visible and invisible, the job was completed in no time. We passed our home inspection, and fifteen years ago we welcomed baby Joseph into our lives.

We are truly one Body in Christ! Those in heaven care about us and can pray for us. What saints have you turned to in prayer? How have they helped you? I would love for you to share your story in the comments section.

Theresa Linden, author of the Chasing Liberty trilogy and Roland West, Loner.

Communion of Saints

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Is there anyone in the world today who has not heard about the exemplary life of at least one of the saints? Mother Teresa of Calcutta spent her entire life caring for the poorest of poor in India, turning to and trusting the Lord with the greatest and smallest of tasks. Watch even one documentary about this saint and you will be amazed at the miracles that occurred frequently as a result of her prayers. Pope John Paul II is another modern saint. He is recognized for helping to bring down the Berlin Wall and end Communist rule in Europe. He touched the lives of the great and powerful and the little and forgotten, fearlessly bringing the truth of Christ. “Be not afraid,” was his message to the Church.

1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Saints are proof that the holiness that God calls us to is possible. And why shouldn’t we believe it? For we know that with God all things are possible!

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How holy are these people? Before a person is declared a saint, their life and writings are thoroughly investigated. Witnesses are interviewed and the local bishop must find them to be worthy of this formal declaration. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints may then accept this application or conduct their own investigation. But then the Church waits on God. No one is declared a saint until God performs two miracles, usually a healing, through this person’s intercession.

Why does the Church declare a person a saint? Is it important that we have men and women officially declared as saints by the Church?

The Catholic Church believes that anyone can become a saint, whether a priest or religious, married or single. The call to holiness is universal and obtainable by anyone. The proof that this is obtainable is in the lives of these saints, these men and women that put their entire trust in God and lived according to His will.

We have assurance that those who the Church has declared saints are with God in heaven. And since we know they are face to face with the living God, with confidence we can ask them to pray for us.

Before his death, Saint Dominic said, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.” And Saint Therese of Lisieux said, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.”

Have you given much thought to the Communion of Saints? What saints have you turned to for prayers in your time of need? How have they helped you?

Next week I will share the special miracle that happened when I turned in prayer to our Blessed Mother sixteen years ago.

Theresa Linden, author of Roland West, Loner.

The Lonely

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We know that God is everywhere and that we are surrounded by the cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. But almost everyone feels lonely at times. Mother Teresa said, “Material poverty you can always satisfy with the material. The unwanted, the unloved, those not cared for, the forgotten, the lonely: this is a much greater poverty.”

Who are these lonely people? The elderly whose children no longer visit? The physically and mentally handicapped? Those who are not called to the religious or married life and so live alone? Or does loneliness affect all of us, and too often?lonely-814631_1920

Statistics show that families today make less effort to eat dinner together. People attend less clubs or meetings than in the past. Friends are not even invited over as often as before. Is this the result in developments in technology? We communicate with text messages and email. We prefer solitary entertainments, electronic games and social media, to face-to-face activities.

Are we creating a society of lonely people?

How aware are we of the cloud of witnesses that surround us? Can turning our attention away from self-gratification and toward the spiritual realities be a remedy for loneliness?  Can it rid us of loneliness and help us find our purpose while inspiring us to reach out to others?

God is everywhere, and He calls us into the Communion of Saints. We are not meant to find our meaning or satisfaction strictly in the things of this world. We are pilgrims on earth. Other members of the Communion of Saints stand before the face of God, contemplating God himself and praying for us. We have not been forgotten by them. And we should not forget those around us still struggling on this pilgrimage of life.

“Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all graces, and the life of the People of God itself.” (CCC 957)

Theresa Linden, author of Roland West, Loner