This evening I read an excellent post at First Things, “Offering It Up.” Elizabeth Scalia writes about offering up our difficulties, our pains, and our disappointments to God. What surprised me was that she seems to refer to it as a specifically Catholic idea.
I did a Google search, and sure enough, most of the hits were in reference to Catholicism. Some were by Catholics, explaining the practice; some were questions by non-Catholics who had heard the phrase and wondered what it meant. I think a few were from Catholics who knew the phrase but weren’t really clear on the meaning behind it.
Going back to look at Scalia’s post again, I saw that she specifically links the idea of offering it up to God, and other people benefiting from it. Perhaps that is the “Catholic” aspect of it. I may, in the back of my mind, realize as I offer up my difficulties to God that the end result may be something good for other people, but it’s a rather indirect link.
When I am focused on God rather than my problems, I am more able to do something good for others. And whatever spiritual growth I experience as a result of the difficulties I go through will also make me better able to help others. It’s hard for me to think of the “offering it up” as directly benefiting others, perhaps.
I’m not sure where I first heard or read teaching about offering up my pains and hurts to God. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in any of the fundamentalist churches I attended in my teens and early adult years. They would have taught me to take those things to God in prayer, certainly, but the word “offering” would not have been used.
This post at Back to the Bible explains the concept that I did learn, probably about fifteen years ago, about offering suffering to God. Sometimes it seems that there is very little else to offer Him. I can try to offer a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15), but it seems like just words, with very little behind it except “this is what I’m supposed to do.” I think it’s good to give praise to God whether we feel like it or not, but I appreciate having a way to have something to give God that I can match with feelings behind it.
Giving Him my feelings of confusion or disappointment – or worse, of self-pity or resentment – may not seem like much of a gift. (Of course, even when I can give something that feels like a “better” gift, I know that God is hardly in need of anything I can give him. So the value of the gift is not really the issue.) But keeping it to myself is hardly better. Giving it to Him, to do with whatever it is He can do, sometimes seems like the best I can give Him, at the moment.
If nothing else, it does refocus my thoughts and my feelings. I would like to think it is more than that – especially because if it’s just a technique to change my attitude, it’s really not a gift to Him, it’s for me. But I also try not to worry too much about my motives – because that gets me focused back on myself again. So whatever my motives, and my concerns about them – they just become one more thing to offer up to God.