Saturday, July 19, 2008

Relying on God to Grow

Stanley Goh, who is presently in India working with the poor, writes us another update of his life and work there. He writes:

For it is when I am weak that I am strong.

I’ve been in India for almost 5 months now and the experience has been nothing less than amazing. From the people that I’ve been meeting and working with to the students that I’ve been teaching and interacting with, India has been living up to the incredible tag that their tourism board has been pushing and more. As much as I’d like to take credit for this, I’m constantly reminded that I’ve been extremely blessed to have met the people that I’ve met and done the things that I’ve done – all because I’ve been a willing recipient of God’s grace.

I came here with a whole load of fears and was quite unsure of how things would turn out. I was afraid that students would not understand me and they wouldn’t like me as a teacher. I feared that the lessons that I planned would not work and the students would suffer as a result. I felt tested as an educator in a strange land and was unsure if I could meet those challenges. On hindsight, all those fears were unfounded and as we’ve reached the halfway point of the programme that we’re running for the students in the nearby villages and communities, I’m happy to say that things have worked out in the end and the students are happy to come back for the classes we’re organising for them and have shown a marked improvement in both English and their ability to communicate.

While one is always tempted to take credit for the overcoming of difficulties and fears, I remember that it’s not me alone that accomplished all this. Behind me always is God who has given me all that I have now and continues to provide me with all that I need to meet whatever challenges that I face. I’ve come to realise that the more one places one’s trust in God in all that we do, the easier things get because we recognise our own weaknesses and inadequacies and find that we gain strength from our trust in God. This is not to say that we don’t put in our own effort to get things done but we gain additional strength and consolation in the fact that we are not alone in all that we do.

I’ve learned that we’re strengthened in our acknowledgement of our own frailty and weakness. Just as Socrates reminds us that the truly wise are those who realise how much they don’t know, we’re reminded that the truly strong are those who realise how weak they actually are. The act of surrender to God’s providence and grace alone will bring us to a realisation that we can do anything, as long as we trust. After all, we’re reminded by St Paul that "My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness. So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ's sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong." (2 Cor 12:9-10) As one of the priests here mentioned in his homily recently, our being born of the flesh brings with it weakness but the divine nature that is imbued in us by God lends us strength. Being able to focus more on the divine and less on the flesh strengthens us in that way too.

A little more on the idea of reliance on God. The driving force behind our strength that comes from Jesus is the love that he has from us. We realise all that’s been done through his love and we are made all the stronger and more courageous in all that we do because we seek to emulate him in all that he has done. Love lies at the heart of God’s support of us and we revel in that as we continue to trust. Thomas à Kempis says this so well:

If you rely more upon your own reason or industry than upon the power of Jesus Christ, you will seldom and with difficulty become and enlightened man: for God wants us to be perfectly subject to himself, and to transcend all reason by ardent love. (Imitation of Christ, Bk 1, Ch 14)

The past months have indeed been a revelation of sorts for me. Being at home and fairly comfortable being among people who understand you and who speak in very similar ways to you often meant that one lives in unchallenged comfort. It’s so easy to lapse into complete self reliance, forgetting the providence of God. Coming out here made me realise how much we do need to rely and trust in God and how all that we are does indeed come from God.

photo: grow by universalpolymath

1 comment:

AP said...

Dear Stanley,

Praise God! Thanks for your sharing. Just got back from an international Charismatic Conference in Jakarta, and your reflection reminded me of what the Nuncio said in his homily at mass on the final day: that it is in our unworthiness that has direct access to God's loving heart, and the more ready we are aware of this, the more ready we are to be sent off. So praise God for using us, no matter how weak we are, for His greater glory. Yes, let's pray for each other that we'll rely more and more on His graces to work harder. God bless!