April 16, 2021

Guest Column / Richard Etienne

We ‘should and ought’ to remember God is always with us

Richard EtienneHow many times a day do you find yourself thinking, “I should have called her.” Or, “I ought to take them some food.” Or, “I should have offered to help.” A wise person once told me that a person can “should and ought themselves to death.”

Yes, there is great value in examining your conscience. There are many times when the Spirit’s urgings must be acted upon.

But when there are too many shoulds and oughts in your life at one time, it can become paralyzing.

A person can only do so much and does nobody any favors—especially those people who are closest to them—by failing to maintain healthy boundaries and a healthy sense of balance in life. And at the end of each day, doesn’t there always seem to be much “unfinished” business?

This fact points to another important axiom that was passed on to me: “God will provide the grace needed for each day.”

When each day is finished, we must say: “The rest is up to you, O God,” and “tomorrow is another day” when we can start once again.

Our task is to be faithful to God’s action in our life—to stay alert to what may come, and to stay open to pursuing it. And in the end, doesn’t it often seem to come back to self-awareness?

In many instances, it does seem too easy to fall into a “messiah complex,” where a person feels that they alone must save everyone around them and personally fix every situation that needs correcting in their surroundings.

I must remind myself that there was one Messiah and the rest of us play a secondary role in God’s story. I also must remember that I am only one human and therefore can’t be “everything” for everyone.

In the Book of Psalms, we hear, “I relieved their shoulders of the burden; their hands put down the basket” (Ps 81:7).

And in the Gospel of Matthew, we read, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-29, 30).

God will give us the grace necessary for each day. As Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Mt 6:34).

Are there any burdens that you need to lay down today? Do you need to find some time with the Lord to determine what needs to be laid aside?

(Richard Etienne is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh, Ind., in the Evansville Diocese.)

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