“Ask a Priest: Why Do the Wayward Seem to Have It So Easy?”

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Q: Why does God keep pouring blessings on the ungodly and withhold or remove his blessing from those of us who take him seriously? I have two older cousins. One is an atheist who enjoyed the “spirit of the age,” went through multiple marriages and left the Church, and God has blessed her with nearly a dozen grandchildren. The other cousin, who walked the straight and narrow and resisted all attempts to lure her from the Church, has children who are in their 40s, all unmarried, with no kids. In my own case, I strove to raise my children in the Church. One is an angry atheist, and two others are mired in LGBT. I watch my peers who made no effort at religious education, and they have happy, well-adjusted children. (No, I and my husband weren’t weird or secretly abusive.) How can I evangelize my friends and family when they look at my empty life, and theirs are full? How am I supposed to convince them that Jesus will make their lives better? – M.J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about your children and relatives who have strayed from the faith.

One of the mysteries of life is that there isn’t a strict correlation between one’s faith and the rewards that one might expect to see in this world.

In fact, Jesus didn’t promise us an easy life. He promised us the cross.

It might be good to remember the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31).

The rich man has a cushy life but ended up in hell.

Lazarus, on the other hand, had a very hard life but ended up in the bosom of Abraham.

In the Christian life we are called to be faithful, not successful. Jesus was faithful—and ended up on a cross. The Blessed Virgin was faithful—and ended up having to watch her Son die a horrible death.

Try not to judge the quality of your life by worldly standards. Things will look very different once we step into eternity.

As to your question about evangelization: It’s good to remember that evangelization isn’t so much about convincing people to convert. Conversion is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit.

What you can do is try to live your faith as best you can, to pray and sacrifice for others, and to share at opportune moments how the faith has helped you.

Recall the parable of the sower and the seeds (Luke 8:5-8). He sowed seeds but wouldn’t have immediately seen the fruits of the seeds that fell on rich soil.

Perhaps you are called to sow seeds as best you can. The Holy Spirit can complete the work in his own time.

And who knows? Your fidelity and perseverance in faith and prayer, amid so many disappointments, might be the very things that merit the grace of conversion for some of your wayward relatives and peers.


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One Comment
  1. Good response Father M. To MJ … the cousin who had multiple marriages, you say God ‘blessed her?’ None of her marital unions remained, which means God, who is LOVE, did NOT bless any of her ‘choices’ in marriage. Blessed her with nearly a dozen grandchildren? Maybe he blessed her children (how many does she have by those multiple marriages?) Did any of her children marry within HOLY matrimony? Even if they did not…BE HAPPY that your cousin’s children found spouses to provide the beginnings of stable family life that may have been tumultuous growing up with a step dad, or a half dad and the step mom if other parent married and half brothers/sisters. Keep them in prayer that ‘they find the grace and virtue of religious worship in the Catholic church OR at the least a liturgical faith practice. Might be what your atheist cousin needs. Your faithful cousin with children in their 40s who are unmarried… AND NO KIDS? Well, golly gee I think that’s what SINGLE means… no kids. (sounds like they are living their state of life well) And if they are IN but not of this current culture… FAITHFUL to that sanctifying grace…REJOICE and be happy! I take it your faithful cousin married and stayed married to a faithful husband. Do her kids have stable employment, and share home with parents or have means to live in an apartment nearby? So, BE HAPPY. If they aren’t ‘shacked up’ or haven’t found a soul mate…to marry, maybe it is BECAUSE they are not in ‘the way’ of the ‘culture.’ REJOICE FOR THEM.

    . . . INSTEAD OF COUNTING the blessings of your atheist cousin, get out a sheet of paper and write down your blessings from God. Start with YOUR FAITH, a gift from God. How many years have you and your soul mate been married? That you both are responsible citizens living the blessing of a responsible life, husband main breadwinner, maybe you have a job; you pay your bills each month, have little debt, you both attend to the Sacraments, which provides THE STRENGTH to ‘bear a cross.’ God doesn’t give us crosses, GOD provides us STRENGTH to carry them. (Father M is correct, GOD just might have selected you and your husband to be His instruments to convert those ‘blessed’ relatives (they aren’t blessed, you are) Keep in mind SAINT Monica who prayed 30 something years for her wayward ‘playboy’ son to convert…and HE DID.
    He is Saint Augustine. BE HAPPY, God IS BEING SO PATIENT with your atheist cousin, and your non-religious ‘friendly acquaintances.’ Do you prefer HE WITHDRAW the blessings and grace to them? God doesn’t work that way… His blessings and grace are given to all, THE PROBLEM is many are NOT AWARE of where the ‘GO(O)D LIFE’ comes from. (God DOES NOT approve of SINFUL ACTIONS, those who mock love or redefine it…HE does not support it, nor should any faithful souls approve of ACTIONS that mock God…all that can be done is pray God is merciful some day) If the atheist cousin is belittling and berating you and husband and your faith… shake the dust and keep a distance (remain cordial but distant) If the atheist is
    not bothering your faith choices… well, keep a distance anyway and find MUTUAL friends.

    Stop looking at the ‘worldly’ blessings of others. Show your happiness for your GO(O)D life, even if the material blessings are not abundant. THE INTERIOR BLESSING of being sanctified, are what provides your strength ‘in this current society.’

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