Sifting – A Spiritual Shakedown for Lent?
In the readings for this week (the 8th Week in Ordinary Time), the opening line from the Book of Sirach is, “When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear.”
This has to do with the idea of sifting. Sifting is a kind of discernment. Often it is a difficult process. Lent is a time when we purposefully, intentionally sift our relationships. We shake out and examine our relationship with God. We examine our interactions with others.
What would a Lenten sifting process look like?
Meredith Houston Carr is a former attorney. She now enjoys the never-dull stay-at-home mom living with her three energetic children. Meredith is passionately devoted to writing. This usually occurs during naptime and between loads of laundry. She offers words that encourage and infuse people – especially women – with hope. She has her own blog but also writes for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She wrote about going through a sifting process in her own life:
The day I received my son’s autism diagnosis, something inside me broke.
In the margins of my daily devotion, through tears, I scribbled, “I don’t know how my faith is going to survive this hit.” The diagnosis ushered me into a three-year period of darkness. Little cracks in my marriage rapidly became gaping fissures. Small lies I’d believed about God loomed large. Tears, fears, and endless wrestling matches with my heavenly Father multiplied.
It’s an excruciating season when you are “ Fighting for your faith“
What are some aspects of sifting that we can examine?
1. Sifting is a season. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 we read:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A season can appear to last forever. That can seem scary. It is not permanent.
2. Sifting Separates Silly From Solid.
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. (Luke 22:31-32).
In Meredith’s life, she realized that she needed to work on her marriage. She had to evaluate her understanding, and relationship, with God. St. Peter had to do the same. No more fishing. God had more important things for him to do.
3. Satan and Sacraments. Satan will say it’s your fault this is happening. He will say, “this will never end.” He will say “This is God doing this to you.” That’s a lie. To distinguish Satan’s voice from God’s voice, we need to clean out our spiritual ears. We do that through the sacraments; Confession and the Eucharist.
4. Solidarity of Support.
Genesis 2:18 – “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 we read, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are being built up.”
You are not meant to negotiate the journey of a season by yourself. God has placed people in your life to accompany you. Spouses, parents, friends, Confessors, spiritual guides, counselors, mentors… Call them. Visit them. Talk to them. They will support and encourage you. They will offer loving guidance. The Holy Spirit will speak to you through them.
5. Strengthening for Sending
Luke 22:31-32 – “And once you have recovered, you in your turn must go out and strengthen your brothers.”
God never desires pain and suffering. God does not wish crosses on people. He does use the cross to lead to resurrection.
Proverbs 31 Ministries is a website where “real women offer real-life solutions to those striving to maintain life’s balance, in spite of today’s hectic pace and cultural pull away from godly principles. Wherever a woman may be on her spiritual journey, Proverbs 31 Ministries exists to be a trusted friend who understands the challenges she faces, walks by her side, and encourages her as she walks toward the heart of God.
It is a place where Meredith was able to share her difficult season with other women. She found that her experience offered encouragement and support to other women. Her cross sent her a ministry and sent her on a mission.
Season – Separating – Sacraments Against Satan – Support – Sending. Pick one of these. Focus on it for Lent. Take one each week. Speak to the Lord about one of these aspects of sifting. See what the Holy Spirit reveals to you.
Let’s look at a closing prayer from Meredith Houston Carr ….
Heavenly Father, We confess our tendency to doubt You in difficult seasons. Help us continue wrestling for our faith. Sustain us by Your grace until Your work in us is complete. Amen.