April 14, 2023

Straight from the heart: Readers share how God’s strength, voice guide them

(Editor’s note: The Criterion has invited our readers to share a favorite Bible verse or a favorite quote that helps remind them of God’s presence in their lives and/or helps center them in their relationships with other people. Here is part two of their responses. See part one | See part three)

By John Shaughnessy

Looking back to a time when she was a teenager, Sandi Patel admits she wasn’t completely thrilled by the assignment she was given.

In her preparation to receive the sacrament of confirmation, Patel was instructed to find a Scripture verse that was meaningful to her.

“As I flipped through the Bible with some ambivalence, I came upon Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Little did I know that that seemingly random encounter with Christ through his word would become a cherished Scripture verse, and true to its words, my strength.”

A member of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, Patel has called upon that strength from Christ at every point of her life since she chose that verse.

“In high school, it got me through the challenging situations of teenage life. In college, it calmed my nerves before a music performance. As a young adult, it gave me courage to meet my husband’s parents for the first time. As a young bride, it helped me figure out how to deal with two different ways of managing a household.

“As a teacher, it reminded me to be patient with my students who weren’t getting it. As a mom, it cautioned me that the young stages of life pass by quickly, so take a deep breath and love. As a daughter, it eased my broken heart as I cared for my father in his final days on this side of heaven. As a professional, it carried me through some very difficult situations when people behaved in ways that were far less than kind.

”Yes, Philippians 4:13 is on repeat in my mind. I lean into it nearly every day. It’s not a slogan, like ‘just do it.’ It’s my very dearest friend, Jesus, calling me to his heart, holding me and loving me with strength beyond measure. All I need to do is ask.”

Extra wisdom for comfort and patience

Joan Ayer relies upon her favorite Bible verse when she needs to comfort people during a dark time in their lives.

It also serves her well when she needs to have patience with someone.

The words of extra wisdom for her come from Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be accepted in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

“I started saying this silently when a family member was going through a divorce,” says Ayer, a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s also quite helpful when chatting with people who love to argue.”

Matters of the heart

Tom Yost describes himself as a “heart” person.

“I think with my heart. I speak from my heart. I feel with the heart. I act from the heart. It can be emotional and exhausting.”

Yost is so in tune with matters of the heart that he knows that word is mentioned 572 times in the Bible. So when it comes to sharing a favorite Bible verse or a favorite quote, Yost goes right to the heart of the matter.

“One of my favorite verses is a responsorial psalm that is sung at various times throughout the liturgical year,” says Yost, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany. “The verse is, ‘If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts’ (Ps 95:7-8).

“Another of my favorite verses is from the prophet Ezekiel 36:26—‘I [the Lord God] will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.’ ”

Yost has relied upon God’s voice, care and generosity in times of both heartbreak and joy.

“I know the sadness, isolation, loneliness, anger, fear and hopelessness of a hardened, stony heart,” he notes. “It has great difficulty hearing God’s voice which is the voice of love, peace, mercy and forgiveness. It is a restless, unsatisfied and lost heart. It is an aching heart not really knowing what it aches for—until it hears and surrenders to God’s voice.

“I know the freedom and beauty and joy of a natural heart, too. A heart that returns to the mercy and love of God over and over again. A heart that forgives and seeks forgiveness. A heart that is open and vulnerable and willing to risk itself for the sake of truth and love. A heart that treasures people and relationships over things and possessions. The heart that God created for us, not the one we created for ourselves.”

Yost turns to one other heart-related Bible verse for the foundation of his life and his faith.

“When Jesus is asked in Matthew 22:37 what is the greatest commandment he replies, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.’

“He leads off with the ‘heart.’ Not a heart of stone, but a natural heart. I want a ‘natural’ heart, and God wants to give it to me. What about you?” †

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