“Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will, and being just what God wants us to be.”
— St. Therese of Lisieux
I want to be holy! I seek it every day. I know holiness is all around me because God is all around me. I know holiness lives within me because God dwells within my heart. Yet, even though holiness surrounds me, is in me and seeks me as I seek it, search for it, and desire it above all things, I still struggle in my mind and heart to let its influence control my life. I am a sinner. Holiness is hard.
The reason holiness is so hard is because of the forces that seek to stifle it in our lives. Forces we often ignore, deny, or are ignorant. These forces power, purpose, and presence are determined to prevent our holiness. As we human beings live our daily lives there are activities and actions taking place around us continually that are working to enslave us to a domain of darkness. This strife has been going on since our creation. It is a strife aimed at God, the God who is love. It is a strife that hopes of creating hurt and sorrow within the divine heart. The Bible teaches that only a fool says there is no God. Only a greater fool does not understand our role as pawns the diabolical destiny of the powers and principalities attacking us. Powers and principalities whose insanity is to overthrow the One who is infinite and cannot be overthrown.
This darkness that draws us, deceives us, deludes us is the reason holiness is so hard. I believe this is why Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14 NRS) It is so easy for us to just go with the flow of most of humanity that ignores God’s continuous calling of the dangers we face. Yes, holiness is hard.
So what do we do? How can we, deceived distracted and self-oriented sinners, ever find the way to holiness as simple as St. Teresa makes it sound? How can we stand against such a difficult opponent who knows us better than we know ourselves?
I have found in my own life the only hope I have is through commitment and discernment rooted in a humility that is willing to take the chance of depending on God’s grace and the opportunities it gives those who are willing to enter into the process of purgation, illumination, and sanctification that God’s will gives to us. I have found it is only when we are willing to be serious about our spiritual lives that we can find the way that leads to holiness.
I have served churches who have embraced a theology of cheap grace and I cannot return there. I have served churches that are like hobbits who only like to hear what they already believe in a way that entertains them and inoculates them from the truth that surrounds them. I cannot go back. I now seek to be in fellowship with other followers of the way who understand holiness is hard. I search for the few who grasp the importance of spiritual process and daily (if not hourly) discernment. But most importantly, I ask God to use me in a way that will help others prepare for what is most certainly to come. I seek to ask them to join me in seeking to be holy even though holiness is hard.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.
(Eph. 1:3-4 NRS)