Life has been full lately and full can be good. Or, full can be challenging. In recent weeks and months, its been the latter. Truth be told, its really been a tough year. Our family has run the gamut of stress and anxiety inducing situations – death of a family member, loss of a job, issues at school with children – the whole nine yards. That said, I didn’t sit down to write this as a pity party. Not at all.
I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much. – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
I know in my heart that this too shall pass and that God is working all of these experiences in the life of my family for greater good. At times I’ve stopped and pondered what life might be like during these challenging times without faith. Would I feel despair at the thought that this really is all for nothing and that, at times I would think ‘life sucks’ and not have any hope that there was any purpose in my suffering? Would I feel as though life had its ups and downs, but that there was nothing beyond this earth – no possibility of eternity in the beauty of the afterlife? How would I ever possibly lift myself up at moments of despair if this is what I believed? Why would I ever try thinking that it was just how life was and that I would likely have to deal with difficult times again and again and again.
I am so very grateful for my faith and my belief that God permits things that are challenging to happen to us. He doesn’t ‘make’ them happen – but He does ‘let’ them happen. Being a merciful God, He also provides us with the tools to be able to navigate our way through and beyond our suffering. Not only that, but He also provides us with the wisdom we need to be able to learn of the lesson that is being provided for us. In every challenging experience, there is a lesson to be learned. Both of these ideas provide me with great comfort as it provides a purpose to suffering and difficulties in life.
I have to admit that my prayer life has been lacking – seriously lacking. I say ‘daily prayers’ and pray the morning prayers from the Magnificat, but have been unable to fully concentrate on anything that I’m saying or that comes to my mind. This could be partially due to the fact that I have not had much time to truly stop and slow down. I am being reminded that at the time that I most need to pray, prayer is hard.
It is difficult to pray when one is busy or one’s life is full. It is doubly difficult when one’s life is fully AND one is struggling. During our times of struggle we sometimes ask ourselves, ‘Okay God, why is this happening to me? And when is it going to end or get better?’. That can be indicative of times when we most need Jesus, but when we are most conflicted in our prayers. We *need* to pray, but it can be difficult to want to spend that time in prayer because we may feel abandoned by God. I like to believe that this is part of God’s desire to remind us of His role in our lives. By having us struggle, it requires us to want to lay our struggles at His feet and ask for His favor – not because He wants to see us suffer, but because He wants to remind us that He is there to love us.
That said, for me – right now – its a struggle. These days, I am being reminded of three things as I stumble my way through my challenges. First, I am reminded that God has a wonderful sense of humor. There are moments when I have to stop, look up in the sky and say ‘Really? Are you serious?’. Thankfully, at those moments I remember to stop and laugh. Laughing can be much better than crying. Second, I am reminded that God has faith in me. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta says in her quote above, God never gives us more than we can handle. At the moments I’m feeling most overwhelmed, I’m doing my best to stop and remind myself that God must *really* have some serious confidence in my ability – and if He does, then I must be confident of my own ability too. Its very comforting. Finally, I am reminded that we are presented with the same situation over and over and over in our lives until we get it ‘right’. While there is much in my life that is presenting challenges that is beyond my control, there is much that I can manage – and I know that God is presenting that situation to me again in order that I can learn something from my experience.
Through these challenging times, I look around at those I know and at strangers on the street and realize that I am, in spite of this little valley in life right now, truly blessed. This past week has given me the chance to see the beauty in my children’s maturing as they make good choices throughout their day. We have friends who are struggling with financial issues, health issues, divorce and all sorts of other struggles. While running yesterday morning we passed what appeared to be a homeless fellow in a wheelchair with only one leg.
Challenges in life are real, and they can lead to stress and anxiety. Many smaller challenges combined can seem far greater than the true sum of their parts. Life can be difficult. The question becomes ‘How to move forward?’. For me, the solution has been taking small and incremental steps – particularly in my prayer life given that prayer can be a powerful force in moving through the tunnels of which we sometimes feel that there is no end.
Yesterday morning as I was driving to my run, I prayed as I always do in the car. Its not very peaceful or meditative, but I take what time I can these days! During my prayer time in the car, I found myself feeling anxious and unable to focus on my words or anything I was going to say. Usually I am led by the Holy Spirit and I always find that comforting. Yesterday, the Holy Spirit couldn’t seem to find me on the GPS. The best words that I could form in my mind and utter from my lips to pray were ‘God, please help me make it through today.’ That’s it. God, however, knows what I need and understands where my head and my heart are at right now. He understands and knows that, sometimes, that’s the very best I can do for a prayer.
Those few words seemed to sum up my approach these days which is to eat the elephant one small bite at a time. I remind myself that I don’t have to have everything resolved at once, but I can certainly approach those items which are in my control first and work toward moving through the dark tunnel they present with the most simple of prayers.
Blessed Mother Teresa spent a great majority of her life feeling as though Jesus was *missing* in her life – she did not feel His presence. She did, however, persevere in her ministry and continue to pray seemingly unceasingly. She is a wonderful role model for those of us who find ourselves struggling with prayer at the very moment when we need it most as well as a reminder that simplicity and minimalism can often be vastly underrated.