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Misty morning – Tlacolula Valley – Mexico

2022 is coming ’round the bend, and you can be sure it is loaded with affliction, anguish, battles, calamity, catastrophe, confusion, difficulties, financial setbacks, family issues, misfortune, obstacles, pandemic, sorrow, spiritual attacks, stress, trials, tribulation, work drama, unexpected loss, vexations and a ton of zabernism (the misuse or abuse of military authority) around the world.

What should we do when we encounter nastiness and unpleasantness? What mindset can help us through frustration and disappointment? How can we remain happy and content amid the turmoil and trouble that we will inevitably encounter in 2022?

Our modern world is full of books, articles, essays, blogs, podcasts, youtubers, conferences and retreats that aim to answer those questions in a myriad of ways. But for me, I found a nugget of truth I plan on hanging onto in 2022, from Thomas Haemmerlein, also known as Thomas a Kempis, that dates back to the 14th century. He wrote in his book The Imitation of Christ, in a chapter called That all troubles are to be endured for the sake of eternal life:

An hour shall come when all labour and confusion shall cease. Little and short is all that passeth away with time….Peace shall come in one day which is known to the Lord; which shall be neither day nor night, but light eternal, infinite clearness, steadfast peace, and undisturbed rest….death will be utterly destroyed, and there shall be salvation which can never fail, no more anxiety, happy delight, sweet and noble society.

Thomas a Kempis is giving us all words to live by and to thrive by when we are going through times of difficulties. He is reminding us to always have in mind a larger perspective and bigger picture than we normally have, especially when events and circumstances are not going our way; are not fitting into our plan. He is telling us to look at life from the vantage point of Eternity. The picture doesn’t get any bigger than that. With that view, everything changes.

With eternity in mind (or our eternal home and heavenly country, as Kempis writes in a later chapter) we can think better and overcome the challenges that sometimes surround us. All pain and suffering eventually become “little and short” and soon pass away, even if they last a lifetime, because a lifetime on earth is but a drop of water in the ocean of eternity.

Compare present turmoil to “steadfast peace, undisturbed rest, no more anxiety, and happy delight” that will endure forever and ever.

We don’t know what 2022 holds for us, but we do know Who holds 2022 – Our loving Heavenly Father! We are his dearly loved children, and he will tenderly care for us, in the coming year and for eternity.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. When that happens I reach for Thomas a Kempis’ classic book, The Imitation of Christ, and before I know it, I’m sound asleep. I know that doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement for such a wonderful book: “Read The Imitation of Christ and fall asleep.”

But I do heartily recommend this book because normally when I can’t sleep the reason is I have crazy, nonsensical, weird thoughts bouncing around in my mind, that I can’t stop, so I read the deep, yet down to earth, thoughts of Thomas a Kempis. I read a chapter or two until I hit upon a phrase or a sentence that speaks to my heart, and I memorize it. I repeat it over and over until it drives out all other insanity coursing through my brain, and then I am back asleep.

This last week there was a night that I couldn’t sleep and I started reading The Imitation of Christ, chapter 26, which Thomas a Kempis titled “Of the exaltation of a free spirit”. That is where I encountered the sentence “Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, constancy to persevere.”

That is a great prayer for all kinds of different situations that we might find ourselves in, but what Kempis had in mind is the Christian’s struggle between fleshly consolations with present delights and the love of eternal things. Kempis is praying for God’s help that he stay focused on eternal things that will never fade away, like love for God and man, paying attention to heavenly things, and the sweet unction of the Holy Spirit, and that he not be entangled by the necessities and pleasures of the body, or deceived by the world and its short glory.

That is a prayer that we should pray everyday because we live in a world that tempts us in every way to focus on the hear and now, to attain pleasure because we deserve it, and to indulge our desires because we only live once. Those are lies from the world and the devil and our flesh is most ready to believe them.

People talk about being free spirits, but we can only truly be free spirits when we cast off the weights of pride, untie the ropes of immediate gratification and break the chains of materialism. God give us the courage to resist worldly temptations, patience to endure to the end, and constancy to persevere in Your Way, no matter what the cost. Amen.

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