“Give me wealth or want,
Delight or distress,
Happiness or gloominess,
Heaven or hell,
Sweet life, sun unveiled,
To you I give all.
What do you want of me?”
—Teresa of Avila “In the Hands of God,” Poem II
Today we celebrate the feast day of Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church who is said to have observed, “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” This sixteenth-century Carmelite captured my imagination soon after I entered the Catholic Church in 1994 as a single adult. At a time when the two options available to most women were marriage or the convent – and consequently the convents were full of unconverted hearts – she abandoned herself to divine providence, and went on to reform her community purely out of love for God. This kind of passion, I wanted.Though she is perhaps best known for her poem that begins, “Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you, all things pass away, God never changes,” St. Teresa endured true hardship and opposition, often from those within her own order. Yet she repeatedly offered her heart with faith and tenderness to “Her Majesty,” trusting God to give her exactly what she needed, when she most needed it.
Each of us faces such moments when our faith is tested, almost to the limit, by the circumstances and people who surround us. “Please God, I have faith that you will do this for me.”
But today we stop to contemplate another, deeper truth: That faith is as much about what we do not see – about the prayers that go unanswered – as it is about receiving the miracle we asked for. Sometimes faith is not in the receiving, but in the trusting.
When was the last time you had to exercise faith by choosing to trust in God even when he did not answer your prayers as you’d hoped? What did it teach you that you could not have learned any other way?