There's always a temptation to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We have to resist it
St. Jeanne Jugan, the foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, was a deeply prayerful woman, but also remarkably practical. Though her Sisters spent hours in prayer each day to fuel them for their demanding work providing medical care for the poor, St. Jeanne knew that they would not always be able to step away from the patients in their charge to bring their anxious or breaking hearts before the Lord.
When speaking with an overwhelmed novice she made this clear:
When your patience and strength run out and you feel alone and helpless, Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel. Say to him, ‘Jesus, you know exactly what is going on. You are all I have, and you know all things. Come to my help.’ And then go, and don’t worry about how you are going to manage. That you have told God about it is enough. He has a good memory.
It’s a beautiful thing, when life begins to seem impossible, to spend hours before the Lord, begging him to hold you, to help you sort through your feelings and your options. It’s also something of a luxury. More often than not, when we feel entirely overwhelmed, there doesn’t seem to be time to stop and pray.
And while Christians starve without regular time in prayer, extended time in silence before the Blessed Sacrament isn’t the only way to pray. Maybe we can schedule a weekly holy hour, but when the car’s overheating or the baby spikes a fever or angry texts start pouring in, or the ambulance is on its way, there just isn’t time. We don’t have an hour to be still before the Lord.
So since we can’t pray in the ideal way, we don’t pray. We let the perfect be the enemy of the good, figuring it’s better to be frantically present to life’s difficulties than to escape into a chapel.
This is one reason, of course, that it’s so important to commit to daily prayer: to strengthen us for such times. But in the moment of crisis, it does no good to long for that time of peaceful recollection. Instead, we need to follow St. Jeanne Jugan’s advice: take 30 seconds to beg Jesus for help, then stand up, and carry on. Clean the paint spilled all over the carpet, call the insurance agent, meet with the concerned teacher, listen to the radiologist.
But take those 30 seconds first. Take a moment, when life explodes in your face, to remember that you are seen and known and held and loved by the God who holds galaxies in the palms of his hands. He can handle your speeding ticket and your bankruptcy and your layoff and your wife’s affair. He can carry you.
Later, when things have settled and you’ve got a moment’s peace, you can finally give him your undivided attention, searching the Scriptures for comfort and guidance or just resting in his presence and asking him to fill you with his wisdom and strength.
But when you, like St. Jeanne Jugan’s young novice, feel alone and helpless and there isn’t the time to indulge those feelings, take just a moment to entrust your heart to the Lord, and then be about your business. It’s good advice for a novice in a very active religious community and it’s good advice for us.