Finding Order When the World Seems to Be Falling Apart
Who saw this coming? This is life, unfortunately we don’t have a lot of other explanations than that. Stressful situations, tragedies, and the like affect individuals all the time. A death of a close loved one, for example, or the loss of a job, slams the brakes on our lives. Major disruptions in life hopefully bring a time of clarity: what’s really important? Is there a difference in what I believe and how I’m living my life? We’re living through an intense disruption now with COVID-19. It’s affected every part of our lives.
Truth be told, life hadn’t been all that peaceful before COVID. There was no pandemic, but Americans were generally overworked, didn’t get enough sleep, and in poor health (obesity rates especially). We live in a 24-hour news cycle, with our phones clamoring with notifications. Social media demands our attention with photos, videos, comments, likes, noticing who didn’t like a post, and more. The world provides constant stimulation and entertainment.
In the best of times and the worst of times, God offers us peace unlike anything the world can offer. Jesus offers us divine love, the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life. He doesn’t guarantee that we won’t suffer; Christ guarantees the opposite (see Matt 16:24). He promises the suffering of Good Friday and the glory of Easter Sunday. Embracing the salvation of God—which He planned for you and for me from the beginning of time!—gives profound peace in the midst of a frantic world. Conforming to that peace takes work, but it’s a simple truth: without God first in our lives, there will be no peace. Hobbies and interests bring some relaxation into our lives, but as the country has been effectively shut down for three months, many of those things have been taken away from us.
It’s a lesson from this pandemic that we absolutely cannot miss: the world cannot give peace. It is incapable of providing a lasting peace, and yet we often pursue the things of the world with greater vigor than we pursue Our Lord. So many Catholics (including myself) have long been indistinguishable from non-religious people. And that’s a problem! We may not believe that this world is all there is—but would our actions convict us? Add up the time spent watching TV, playing video games, scrolling through social media, and any other secular endeavor. Then add up time spent in prayer, going to Mass, reading the Bible, and any other spiritual activity. How does the testimony of the minutes measure up? Jesus urged us to store treasure in heaven, and tells us plainly, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:21). By adding up the minutes of how we spend our time, where are you looking for peace—in the world or in God?
Putting God first in your heart, mind, and actions is the only avenue to lasting peace of heart. Taking some of those minutes away from worldly pursuits can do great things for our lives. When peace pervades us, we’re better able to be open to the grace that God wants to give us. Here are some practical tips for ordering life toward God and the peace of heart that only He can give.
Set the right goal.
Don’t approach this in terms of “I’m taking control of my life.” If it’s me who’s doing this, our efforts ultimately circle back onto us. It’s a subtle distinction but an important one. In the effort of ordering our lives, we should be seeking God and not ourselves. What He wants for us is a life ordered to Him, and that includes all the goals we’d want in an ordered life: self-control over passions, appetites, and the mind.
Look at prayer as a necessity.
There is no better way to set your life in order than committing to prayer. The Dominicans’ Rosary Center has some great suggestions on a daily prayer hour, giving a structure while leaving plenty of space for individual customization. (https://www.rosarycenter.org/your-daily-prayer-hour/) Also helpful is devoting specific devotions to specific times of the day. Ideas could be saying a morning offering (very short and easy), reading the daily Mass readings before starting the day, reading a chapter a day of a book of the Bible, praying the Angelus at noon, and praying during your commute or your chores (rosary apps can be good for that).
We are at a unique time in history— we don’t know when or how this crisis will end. Now more than ever, the most important thing we can do is commit to prayer. It is the one way to not get lost in the maelstrom that the world is currently in.
Where is sin in your life?
Sin is an offense against God, contrary to the eternal law, and the biggest factor that prevents us from being close to God. If we want a well-ordered life, we have to be fighting the good fight against sin. That means we struggle against the venial sins that weigh us down; it also means that we don’t let mortal sin in our lives. Besides serving as an obstacle in between us and God, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the terrible consequence of mortal sin: it “destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God” (#1855). Not sure where sin is? Go through this examination of conscience for adults (https://www.ncregister.com/info/confession_guide_for_adults) and take it to a trusted confessor. If there is any mortal sin on your soul, get to confession as soon as possible and get rid of it!
Where is haste in your life?
Being late to work, speeding to get somewhere, wolfing down a meal, not taking breaks, and the like deprive us of peace. All these may not seem like they touch on our spiritual lives at first glance. By running at a ragged pace in life, the temptation is to think that we’re being efficient. Look how productive I am! As I’ve had time to reflect on this—because this is a point of weakness for me—we’re not saving time when our lives are full of haste. We’re letting our schedule yank us around, dragging us as if we were on a leash. Take a stand against haste and…
Impose your system/schedule onto your busy schedule.
Don’t wait for free time to come in order to pray or do something spiritual. It may never come! I like to pray in the evening, but that comes after putting kids to bed, doing dishes, picking up the house, and whatever other chores. If I wait too long to pray, I get too exhausted to do anything meaningful. It’s easy to get lost in the day, whether it’s at work or at home with children. Having a schedule makes it easier to keep to spiritual practices—what are the best times to pray, read the Scriptures, or say a family rosary? Experiment and see what kind of system works for you—a checklist? Praying the Liturgy of the Hours? Seek to interject God into the day. Turn on praise & worship music instead of secular music. Listen to Catholic podcasts or free talks on Formed.org or YouTube. There is a huge amount of free content to engage our mind and soul.
Take a break from social media...
Speaking of deprivation of peace, take a look at how often you use social media. As outrage and vitriol become the predominant secular virtues, I think it’s time a pointed question is asked. Is social media a good thing that is sometimes used poorly, or is it a dangerous thing that gives an outlet to the worst elements of our fallen nature?
The most difficult thing in our body to train is our mind. For this, I’d recommend reading books. First on the list is the Bible. If you’re unsure where to start, try reading one of the four gospels. There are mountains of spiritual books that are more than worth our time. Good fiction novels can inspire virtue even if they aren’t spiritual in nature. No screens or notifications; just engaging the mind in the quiet, only broken by the turning of the pages.
Without a doubt, it’s very difficult to hand our lives over to God. Do not be afraid! He will not take everything away; He cannot be outdone in generosity.