Marina Abdel Malak writes: The three popular phrases of Pope Shenouda
Have you ever had a moment when you felt so ‘down’ and you were frustrated? You know – the time when you are angry at no one in particular. The best way to describe it is that you are angry with life in general. Problem after problem, you’ve kept fighting. But then one more thing happens, and you crash. That does it. You can’t take any more pressure or suffering.
At these moments, we often feel hopeless. Caught up in our daily challenges, we are angry that life isn’t going our way. We are frustrated that regardless of how hard we work, life doesn’t get easier. Indeed, the older we get, the more we are that life is one large, continuous battle. Some days you win…but other days, life gets the best of you and leaves you bewildered, feeling alone, and hopeless. Things will never get better, or they can’t get better fast enough.
I’m only in my twenties, and yet, when I reflect back on my life this far, I can see struggles. Specifically, I think back to my journey in the ICU when I felt hopeless and tired. I remember how weak I was; how pathetic I felt. I felt frustrated with life and wanted it to end. I didn’t know if God was ever going to get me out alive, and at times, I actually didn’t want to be alive. I was angry with myself. But more so, I was angry that life had been so harsh on me. I didn’t understand why this was happening. All I knew was that this was the ‘last straw’. I was breaking down, losing hope, and losing faith.
I will never forget the words that my family always quoted when they came to see me. In the words of Pope Shenouda, ‘this too will end soon’, ‘God is here’, and ‘all is for the good’.
Three short statements, but their power and the hope they instill within us is amazing. These three phrases have the ability to fill our hearts with hope, faith, and courage.
The first – ‘this too will end soon’. It is such an encouraging phrase. Don’t worry. Don’t give up and don’t lose faith or hope. This phrase is a reminder that each struggle, each experience, and each obstacle will pass soon enough. We often get so caught up in our troubles that we forget that it will be over. God did not leave us on earth without any hope or reassurance that He would be with us. Indeed, Jesus tells us that He is ‘with us until the end of the ages’ (Matthew 28:20). So, there is no need to feel that our suffering will be forever. Remember, Jesus told us that ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
The second phrase tells us that God is always with us. Since we were little kids, we have been taught that God is everywhere and is with us. But for some reason, as we age and encounter difficulties, we seem to forget that God is still with us! In every pain, struggle, challenge, and obstacle, God is with us. He never leaves us alone and is aware of our pain. And yet, we forget to talk to Him and ask Him to guide us. We try to take control of our own lives without considering that praying to God may be just what we need to do to get through this struggle! If we remember that God is always with us in every moment, maybe we wouldn’t feel so hopeless or distraught. We would be comforted that though this life is hard, we are not alone. We have God with us, and all He asks is that we lift up our voices in prayer and trust in Him. Remember: ‘trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Finally, the last phrase that His Holiness always said was ‘all is for the good’. What does this mean? Perhaps it encompasses our willingness to accept that God is in control of our lives. It means realizing that so engines, we may not get what we want in life – but this only means that God has a different and better plan for us. We are human and can only see things within the present; however, God can see all things. He knows what is best for us and He has a plan for each of us. So, when things don’t go our way, we should remember that this is all for the good. Not because we are trying to be happy to fill our disappointment; but rather, because we are confident that God has a purpose for everything. We may not understand this now, and maybe not wen tomorrow. But one day, we will. And when we understand how things worked out, we will see how God truly planned things for our success. Remember that God said ‘for I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
In times of worry, distress, or trouble, I always think of these three sentences by Pope Shenouda. And I am immediately comforted because it feels as though God is speaking to me through these phrases. It’s as though God is telling me to ‘….Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-8). And from my experiences in life, especially in the ICU, God never fails. He is always there for us, but we need to stay hopeful and faithful. Remember: this too will end, God is always here, and everything happens for the good.
Discussion: which phrase by Pope Shenouda from above is your favourite, and why?