We know that nothing is guaranteed, that even the best laid and followed plans can be scuttled by any number of circumstances outside of our control.
But how do we give ourselves that best chance to find what we are all looking for in life?
I would suggest to you that your best chance lies in listening to the voice inside of you that has been there since your youngest moments, that has travelled with you throughout your life, and which will speak to you right up until the moment of your death and beyond.
God created you in His image and likeness. He gave you at least one special gift as well, many of us more than one. To some he has entrusted great intellect. To others great physical beauty. To some he instilled the ability to lead others. For some it is the gift of oratory, or art, or writing, or singing. Analytical abilities, mechanical abilities, technological proficiency.
In bestowing upon you whatever gift it is that He granted, there comes with it the responsibility to use that gift to make the world in which we live a better place for ourselves and our fellow man, to whatever extent we can achieve such a goal.
Even those who have been challenged with disabilities have been given a gift, at the very least a gift of life, a life that touches and changes those around them.
As we grow and set out upon the journey of our lives, we look for inspiration and education to help guide us. Our parents and families have the first, and usually the greatest, opportunity to inspire and educate.
Our teachers in school, our friends and business associates, our priests and pastors take their turns. We gain some amount of inspiration and education from entertainers, politicians, business leaders, writers, athletes and other public figures.
As we move into and through life, we take all of these inputs and sort them out, many times through trial and error, often adjusted by actual real experiences that we have, both positive and negative. At some point we begin to develop skills, experience, and our own sets of habits, traits, beliefs, standards, and morals.
With all of this input from varied people of many age groups and every type of life experience, you would think that almost everyone would turn out 'good', or would almost always make the 'right' decisions. So why do so many of us, the vast majority of us, make so many poor decisions, choose so many wrong paths, and in the end make our lives and often the lives of our loved ones so much more difficult than need be?
To return to what I mentioned earlier here, I would suggest to you that it's because we fail to recognize and listen to the voice inside of you that has been there since your youngest moments, that has travelled with you throughout your life, and which will speak to you right up until the moment of your death and beyond.
At every choice that you have ever been faced with, God was there with you and gave you direction. He whispered into your heart, mind, and soul the correct path you should take, the correct action you should take. It doesn't matter that you are a Catholic, a Protestant, or even a Christian at all. It doesn't matter whether you, in that moment, even believed that He existed. He spoke to you just the same.
Should I take this money from my mother's purse or father's wallet without asking? Should I cheat on this test, tell this lie, fabricate this story? Should I smoke this cigarette, or marijuana joint, pop these pills, snort this drug? Should I sneak out of the house when I'm not supposed to?
Should I have sex with my boyfriend or girlfriend, or worse, some acquaintance or random stranger? Should I spend this money in this way, stay out late for 'just one more', sleep in on Sunday instead of going to church?
Every decision of your life, and in particular every major decision that was going to affect your future in a permanent or significant way, every time you were put into a situation of moral and/or legal peril, God was there, whispering to you the correct path or action or word.
And you heard Him. You knew the right thing to do, the right word to say, the right action to take. You knew if you should go forward or walk away. You knew whether you should 'just say no', or 'no thank you', or place yourself in jeopardy.
You knew, but you didn't always listen. You decided to 'just say no' to God, or to whatever you wrote his voice off to as your conscience, or some leftover guilt trip of your parents, or whatever else you called that 'little voice' inside you that was keeping you from your fun.
Sometimes when you didn't listen, you got away with something. You dodged a bullet, got lucky.
Maybe you sweated out some situation for awhile, but you weren't caught, or you paid a price but it was one you could handle - that time.
You even knew it, that you had gotten off easy. You promised that it wouldn't happen again, that you wouldn't let yourself get into that kind of mess again. How many of us have repeated past mistakes, lessons we not only should have learned, but did indeed learn?
In the Old Testament's 'Book of Kings', Elijah takes shelter in a mountain cave. God speaks to him saying "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by."
The Bible goes on to tell how "A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord - but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake - but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire - but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound...."
When he heard this whispering sound, Elijah hid his face in his cloak, and returned to stand at the entrance to the cave. He understood that in this whisper to him was the true voice of the Lord, who may indeed come in a grand cacophonous blast, but who much more often speaks in a hushed tone inside our hearts.
The challenge for us is to be like Elijah, and be open to God's voice. To sift through all of the loud inputs from social media, from entertainment and political influences, from imperfect family members even though they mean well.
We must be willing to tune most or all of that out, and listen to the voice of God inside of us. He will be there every time, speaking to you personally. Ignore His voice at your own peril, and blame only yourself when you do and things go wrong.