Include God in Your Suffering

My interest in ClickToPray ebbs and flows. Currently, it’s flowing and I’m using it to pray daily. The daily prayers are easily digestible and provide good ideas for further reflection. This morning’s prayer had a typo which at first confused me and then got me thinking. Without the typo, I probably wouldn’t have given this prayer much further thought. But with it, I started thinking about whether I’m including God in my daily struggles and triumphs.

I give thanks to the Lord for this new day, for this new week. All of these are opportunities for Christ to come to me, to receive his Spirit. In the face of situations of suffering that I do not understand and have difficulty accepting, I ask the Lord not to stay with me. I know that in your presence I will find peace. I offer my day for the Pope’s intention for this month. Glory Be…

https://clicktopray.org/august-3-morning-2/

It’s the “I ask the Lord not to stay with me” that contains the mistake. I’m sure the author probably meant to type “now” instead of “not.” But let’s consider the sentence as written. Ask yourself how many times, in the face of suffering, do you ask God not to be by your side? We may not tell God explicitly to go away, but we also might not ask Him to stand by us either. In other words, maybe we ignore God as we go about our business. We go to FaceBook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and maybe our family to voice our frustration in a cry for help. But how often do we include God with the challenges we face?

After reading this I thought about Jesus in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. I thought about His example of how we should act in the face of difficulty and suffering. Jesus didn’t complain to His disciples or vent about how he was being unfairly treated. Instead, Jesus asked God for the strength to do His Will. And while God didn’t save Jesus from a gruesome crucifixion, He gave Jesus the strength to endure.

The next time you’re facing a challenge or suffering, remember to include God in your circle of friends and family. Ask Him for help. It may not change the situation, but God may change the way you approach that situation. As the daily prayer says, He will give you peace.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Knowledge

Some of us, when confronted with a crisis, know what to do. Think about emergency personnel like paramedics, nurses, and doctors. When there is a medical emergency, they jump into action. If they are at a restaurant and someone collapses, they jump in and help. Other people, while wanting to help, freeze up. Will they make the situation worse by getting involved? Are they able to make the right decisions in that situation? It’s not that their inaction means they don’t care. It’s just that they don’t know what to do.

The ability to act correctly, especially in spiritual matters, is another gift from the Holy Spirit — the gift of Knowledge. It “enables a person to judge rightly concerning the truths of faith in accordance with their proper causes and the principles of revealed truth” (Catholic Straight Answers). While the gift of wisdom is the desire to follow God’s Will, knowledge is the ability to do so. If the gift of understanding is the “why” behind following God’s Will, think of knowledge as the “how.” Even more than just knowing what to think, do, or say, knowledge is also the confidence that what you’re doing is in line with God’s Will. I see so many people on the Catholic Answer Forums asking, “Did I do the right thing when I …?” Knowledge reduces that doubt and scrupulosity.

Knowledge in the Rosary

Consider the Third Luminous Mystery of the RosaryThe Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion. With the gift of knowledge, we can see what comes from God’s Kingdom of Heaven and what does not. We then can make good, knowledgeable decisions to embrace what is Heavenly. If our current desires are for what is earthly, then using knowledge to change our priorities is the process of conversion. When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery, ask yourself whether you are seeing what is Heavenly and making decisions to embrace them.

Next, consider the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary — The Carrying of the Cross. Think about how many people stood by and watched Jesus carry His cross. Many of them might have wanted to help Jesus but they didn’t know how or they were afraid of what the soldiers might do. However, Veronica found the inspiration and courage to stand out from the crowd to wipe Jesus’ face, giving Him a moment of relief.

One of the ways the gift of knowledge manifests itself is knowledge of how to help others in spiritual matters. Many times, we want to help others when we see them struggle or when they are in despair but we don’t know what to do. We are like the onlookers during Jesus’ passion. The gift of knowledge will help us know the right things to say or do. We will be like Veronica — inspired to find a way to help others in need.

Finally, consider the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption. I’ve always said how the Assumption was a sign of God’s special plan for Mary after her earthly death. And that plan was for her to guide us to her Son, Jesus Christ. She guides us in acquiring knowledge of Jesus and His love for us. God has provided us so many tools so that we may know Jesus — the Mass, the Bible, sacred tradition, and countless documents. And we also have guides like Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the saints to help us better know Jesus.

Inspired by Mary and the saints, we should take the opportunity to better know Jesus. We should read the Bible, papal encyclicals, and the Catechism to cultivate our knowledge of our faith. Our small investment in learning our faith will then be compounded by the Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary. With that knowledge, we will be able to better discern what is Heavenly and what is not and take comfort in the fact that choosing what is Heavenly will lead to ultimate joy and peace in God’s grace.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Understanding

I’m going to explore the next gift of the Holy Spirit — understanding. Understanding is closely related to wisdom as well as knowledge. It shares many of the same attributes as wisdom such as engaging one’s mind. If wisdom is the desire to seek the truth, understanding helps explain the “why” behind those truths.

When I think about understanding, I think about my kids. I find it easy to resort to an authoritarian mode where I expect them to blindly follow my instructions. But it is far more effective to have kids understand the reason behind my requests rather than resorting to “because I said so.” Without understanding, we are in a mode of “because I said so” with God. Our Catholic Faith is reduced to a set of rules we follow merely to stay out of Hell. It’s the gift of understanding that elevates us to follow God because we can see the sound reasoning behind the rules.

Understanding allows us to see the world as God does in a limited way. We cannot comprehend all that God does, but the gift of understanding allows us to partially know and better appreciate God’s plan. The gift of understanding provides us that insight into God’s plan, and hence, passionately follow it as the saints do. Understanding is what moves us beyond obeying God because He’s the ultimate authority figure into wanting to follow Him because we know it’s ultimately beneficial to us.

Understanding in the Rosary

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery, Finding Jesus in the Temple. A young Jesus is asking and answering questions amongst the learned scribes and scholars. God doesn’t impart the gift of understanding solely through learned scholars. In this mystery, it came through a child. God has a tendency to pick unlikely messengers whether it be Moses in the Old Testament, Jesus, Saint Peter and Paul, and numerous other saints. God often imparts understanding through unusual means. When you pray this mystery, ask yourself, are you open to all the ways God is speaking to you? Maybe He wants you to better understand Him and you’re not open to the way He delivers His messages.

Another great Rosary mystery that focuses on understanding is the First Sorrowful MysteryThe Agony in the Garden. Jesus begged God to find a different way to redeem the world but ultimately said He would do God’s Will. Jesus understood that God has a reason behind everything He does and allows to happen. Logically, we may not comprehend it or even agree with it, but it’s that gift of understanding that allows us to joyfully obey. It’s not blind obedience rooted in fear, but one where we know that what God asks of us is to our benefit.

Finally, contemplate the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion. On the cross, one criminal challenged Jesus to save them all from death. The other criminal humbly understood who Jesus was and didn’t dare question why Jesus didn’t save Himself or them. He simply asked Jesus to remember him. That’s the root of understanding — not treating God like some sort of genie who gives us what we ask for. Instead, it’s understanding why God does what He does and seeing the greater good that comes from it.

Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God.

Summa Theologiae (I/I.12.5; I/II.69.2; II/II.8.1–3)

Understanding is not easy. Like children, we often want to do things our way and resist any authority that tells us otherwise. This is why understanding is a gift since it’s not something easily obtained by ourselves. But it’s important to understand the “why” behind our faith. Everything we believe and do as Christians has a reason. The more we understand those reasons, the happier we will be doing God’s Will.

Showing Humility in Times of Crisis

In my previous article on humility, I quoted Fr. John Tauler about how Mary was an empty vessel ready for God to pour His grace into Her. I’m going to continue discussing humility as I believe we are living through events that are calling us towards greater humility. And through greater humility, we can find peace in God’s grace.

On DesiringGod, David Mathis talks about how the early Christians practiced humility through trials and persecution. He says:

We don’t teach ourselves to be humble. There’s no five-step plan for becoming more humble in the next week, or month. Within measure, we might take certain kinds of initiatives to cultivate a posture of humility in ourselves (more on those in a later article), but the main test (and opportunity) comes when we are confronted, unsettled, and accosted, in the moments when our semblances of control vanish and we’re taken off guard by life in a fallen world — and the question comes to us: How will you respond to these humbling circumstances? Will you humble yourself?

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-do-i-humble-myself

I like the idea that humility doesn’t happen in a vacuum; that there needs to be some sort of outside source prompting us to respond with humility. In other words, it’s easy to think we are humble if there are no outside factors forcing us to act otherwise. Right now, there is a huge outside factor forcing people to choose whether or not to act humbly — Covid19. How can we use this current pandemic to respond to Jesus’ call to humility?

Previously, I discussed how our pride can fill our hearts and minds leaving no room for God’s grace.  Humility is accepting that we need God in our hearts if we’re to find true peace and happiness.  But it’s not just a pride-filled heart that can block us from living humbly.  Our fears and anxiety can block God just as easily as pride.  We need to avoid letting our fears build in a way that leads us to believe that we face these challenges alone or God is powerless to intercede.

Covid19 is the factor that really tests our humility.  It’s easy to say we’re humble when there’s no challenge.  But when there is widespread fear and panic, we now need to make a choice.  How much are you going to let fear and anxiety occupy your heart and mind and how much are you going to leave open for God to work within you?

I know many people ask in these uncertain times, why doesn’t God do something?  And we all look to the sky hoping that God will just make this virus disappear.  But looking for a global miracle may be missing the point.  We should instead be looking internally and seeing how God is working with us individually.  This is our opportunity to build our relationship with God through prayer and letting Him work in us and through us to build true happiness. Let’s not look only for a worldwide miracle in this time of hardship but also for the greater miracle of God’s grace transforming a humble and willing heart.

Look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane which we pray in the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary.  Jesus was afraid of what was to come.  But he didn’t let that fear entirely consume Him.  He took His situation as an opportunity to turn to God in prayer.  Jesus was humble enough to understand that He wasn’t facing His crucifixion alone and was left to His own devices to find a way through it.  Instead, Jesus put his faith in God’s plan for Him to see Him through.  Similarly, we should remember that our lives are ultimately in God’s hands, not our own.  That should actually give us a sense of peace knowing that an all-loving God ultimately is in control, not a virus and society’s response to it.

Remember, the Covid19 virus is a mix of biology and chemistry.  It is just one of many diseases or natural phenomena to worry about.  It’s also one of the many ways we can become distracted and not achieve the full humility that God asks of us.  At least Covid19 has our attention while many of the other distractions in our lives can go unnoticed.  Now that it has our attention, ask yourself whether you’re going to allow it to spark an interest in making yourself more humble by making more room in your life for God to work in you.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is with Us in Turmoil

People are understandably anxious and stressed out over the covid19 pandemic. People are getting sick, store shelves are empty, and many of us (myself included) are on lockdown in our homes. Besides their health, many people are worried about their jobs and finances as the world economy has tanked. In these times, it’s natural to ask, “Where’s God and why doesn’t He do something?”

In these times of uncertainty, I choose to meditate on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Crucifixion. Instead of seeing Jesus as someone detached and unconcerned with the world’s suffering, I see Him as someone suffering along with us. Although He was God made man and sinless, Jesus suffered and died on the Cross. He died in the same way as the two criminals next to Him.

Jesus remains among us through our suffering today. The question to meditate on when we pray the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery is whether we choose to see Him in our lives or not. So many people at the crucifixion refused to see Jesus as the Son of God unless He performed some sort of miracle. Similarly, many people today might not see Jesus in their lives unless He performs a miracle like making this pandemic magically disappear.

But then there’s the other group that knows that Jesus is here with us even in the absence of signs and miracles. The good criminal on the cross saw that Jesus was the Son of God suffering alongside him. He used that opportunity to ask Jesus simply to remember him. And we can use this opportunity of being locked down, quarantined, sheltered in place, etc. to acknowledge that Jesus is with us through the turmoil. We can turn to Him in prayer and ask Him to remember us. Because Jesus isn’t a distant, uncaring deity. He’s here with us and ready to comfort us if we just ask.

In this time when many of us are cooped up in our homes, let’s take the time to pray more than usual. It is still Lent after all. Pray hard so that you may see that Jesus is present in this world. He understands us because He’s with us. Pray and meditate on that when you’re feeling anxious.

Any Time is an Ideal Time for Prayer

We all know someone who feels like they need to invest a lot of time and money before starting a new exercise regiment. Before doing that first squat, they need to buy the right shoes, clothes, activity tracker, weight set, and videos. It’s only when they feel like everything is in place that it’s the right time to start exercising. In the meantime, they pass up doing a few pushups, taking a walk, or many other exercises because they aren’t as good as the ideal workout they want to start.

I think the same thing can be said about the prayer life of many of us. We tell ourselves, “I’ll start praying seriously, attend Mass, and go to confession when…” And that when is often some sort of demand — when God gives me better health, when God gives me that job I’m applying for, when God helps me find someone special in my life. We constantly make excuses why now isn’t a good time to start investing in earnest prayer and spirituality. We tell ourselves that we have too much on our plate, we don’t feel well, we don’t know the right things to say, or we haven’t purchased the right prayer book and rosary.

In Learn to Profit From Your Spiritual Trials,  Archbishop Luis M. Martinez writes about how any time is the right time for spiritual unity with God. He said:

The best rule for the spiritual life is this: to receive, moment by mo­ment, whatever God sends us and to persevere at all cost with our soul united to God, in spite of all vicissitudes.

I like this idea of taking advantage of the current moment to build a stronger relationship with God. You don’t need to wait for the perfect time because the perfect time doesn’t exist. Bishop Martinez talked about how life is complex and “God affects us with the most varied invitations of grace and the Devil with his ceaseless solicitations to evil.” In other words, in every moment there are opportunities for prayer or excuses for not praying. Waiting for the right moment to start praying could be the Devil trying to lead you away from God’s grace. The Devil wants you to delay prayer until you find the ideal conditions because he knows you’ll never find them.

Your Rosary Meds

Look at the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Annunciation. By all accounts, Mary was taken by surprise by the Angel Gabriel’s proclamation that she was to be the Mother of God. We can picture many of us, in that same situation, probably thinking how the angel’s announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time. Many of us would come up with a list of excuses and tell the angel that while we’re on board with God’s plan in theory, to come back in a few years when we’re better prepared.

We pray the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary to ask God for the awareness to take advantage of every opportunity to draw closer to Him in prayer. We need to imitate Mary and accept God’s Will even if His timing doesn’t align with our expectations. We need to ask Him for strength to see past all the excuses and realize that the perfect time for prayer is now. It doesn’t have to be an ideal time and place. It can be a single Rosary decade, meditating on a Gospel passage, or saying a few prayers. They can be said at home, in the car, on a work break, or in bed. A prayer, when said earnestly, makes any time and place an ideal one.

Referring back to my previous article, Jesus took every opportunity to pray even when He found himself in less than ideal situations. In the First Sorrowful Mystery, we think about how Jesus knew His life was going to be taken in the most painful way possible. Many of us, when facing a huge challenge or sorrowful situation often run away from prayer. We do this because we are angry with God for putting us in a difficult situation or we don’t see the situation as an opportunity to build our relationship with God. Bishop Martinez said this:

How many souls think in times of desolation, as I have so often said, that all is lost, and that their spiritual life has gone to ruin! Invariably the exact opposite is the truth. If, in those moments, we would come to see with clarity the value of desolation, perhaps we might even cease to suffer, and then desolation itself would lose, at least to a great extent, its efficacy and worth.

It’s an odd Mobius strip of cause and effect. The best time to grow closer to God through prayer is when we are facing a challenge. Through prayer, that challenge or difficulty might be lessened. The more frequent the prayer, the greater the faith. And with greater faith comes a clearer perspective of life’s challenges and they can become smaller and less daunting.

In my life, perspective has been God’s greatest gift to me since I started praying the Rosary. The world around me hasn’t miraculously changed because I started praying the Rosary. But how I see the world has. I think I can better put the events of my life into perspective. I try not to worry about the small inconveniences in life and let them derail me from living how God wants me to live. And I also know that the “big” things in life are ultimately in God’s hands. The more I pray, the better perspective I have and the less life’s challenges worry me.

Not praying or delaying prayer is like wearing a blindfold. Every little inconvenience can be blown out of proportion because you have no sense of perspective. Or you may be blind to the fact that you aren’t living as God wants. Take the blindfold off by praying. You don’t need to wait for the ideal conditions to get started. Any condition can be turned into the ideal condition for prayer if you choose.

It’s Okay to Fall: That’s How God Builds Us Back Up

Jesus is a hard act to follow. Sure, we meditate about His human nature like how He was scared at the Garden of Gethsemane. We hear about His suffering and crucifixion. But Jesus is the Son of God; someone with super-human abilities that he demonstrated throughout the Gospels. Surely he must have had super-human abilities to deal with the suffering. We may profess that He was human in all ways but sin, but it’s still a difficult concept to fully believe. I think many of us hold to this notion that Jesus, while human, was stronger than we can ever be. We believe that our suffering must be greater than His because we don’t possess His divine faculties.

This idealized, almost magical view of Jesus leads to many of us having a hard time fully believing in God’s great plan. The Church teaches us that God doesn’t give us a larger challenge than we can handle. But when those challenges become too much, we start to question whether God expects too much of us. Is God overestimating our abilities? We can feel that God is even more distant because He doesn’t appear to understand us. We aren’t Jesus and yet sometimes we can feel that God expects us to act just like Him.

How can we live up to Jesus Christ Superstar?

This is why I appreciate the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. It lays out a template on how we can realistically imitate Jesus. When I meditate on this mystery, it tells me that it’s okay to fall under the weight of life’s challenges. Jesus fell multiple times under the weight of the cross. At one point He even needed help carrying the cross from Simon of Cyrene. Jesus, in all his perfection, had a hard time physically doing God’s will.

We will also have hard times in our life. We will have times when we feel like everything is knocking us down and the weight of our crosses is crushing us. And as much as we may not want to admit it, that’s okay. That’s us imitating Jesus.

Sometimes, life needs to knock us down so that God can build us back up. We have to let go of our preconceived ideas of how life should be so that we can leave room for God to work His grace. And for some of us, God needs to be more forceful by giving us a large, seemingly insurmountable challenge. And we may ask “why God?” or even become angry with Him. But at least we’re talking to God in these cases and starting a dialog.

In Jesus Walks with Us Even When Our Cross is Too Heavy, Jeannie Ewing talks about her struggles raising a daughter with severe medical conditions. She admits that there were times when it felt like God was putting too much on her. She lays out a road map for dealing with the crushing pain. And like many other programs, it begins with acceptance. She writes:

Begin by telling yourself that the burden you are carrying is too much for you to bear. It is more than what you can handle. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed of this, as if you have somehow lost the possibility of sanctity in your very human experience. Acknowledge your hurt.

Building a Spiritual Reserve

Look at the ordering of the Sorrowful Mysteries. The Agony of the Garden comes before Jesus took up His cross. The ordering is significant. Jesus didn’t begin praying to God when He fell under the weight of the cross. He prayed to God before His arrest. He asked God for the strength to do His will before the challenges set in.

We should take Jesus’ prayer example to heart. We need to pray and talk to God before the challenges of life occur. We need to prepare ourselves for whatever direction life takes us. This is why daily Rosary prayer is so important. It allows us to build up a spiritual reserve that we can tap into when life gets difficult. We need to meet God halfway. He’ll be there with us when life’s difficulties hit us in force. But we need to also be with Him; drawing on a close relationship with Him.

Faith — the building should never stop

The other great part of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is that there’s a flip side to it. We may be the Simon or Veronica to someone’s suffering. Someone may be praying to God for relief from sadness, pain, and suffering. But God’s answer may be to call on us to respond and help that person. We may be the miracle someone is praying for. But again, we have to be constantly praying so that we can hear God and respond to what he’s asking us to do. Sometimes God calls us to be a hero. But are we listening to the call in prayer?

We are the answers to other people’s prayers

Disclaimer

Here’s the lawyer disclaimer. When I talk about falling, I’m not talking about falling into sin. Jesus never said through his preaching or his actions that sinning is okay. He understood that we have a tendency to sin and he gives us the gift of Reconciliation for that. When I talked about falling in this article, I’m referring to feeling crushed under the weight of life’s challenges or trying to follow God’s plan.

The First Secret of Spiritual Warfare: Total Trust in God

Imagine if Jesus invited you on a personal spiritual retreat for three days. Just three days, 1-on-1 with Jesus. Think of what you would learn! Imagine how renewed and unwavering you faith would be after that experience. Saint Faustina had exactly that experience in 1938. But she didn’t keep what she learned to herself. She wrote down 25 secrets she learned so all of humanity could benefit from this unique experience. Do you have the faith to take the words of this saint seriously as if you personally heard them from Jesus? I want to explore many of the secrets of spiritual warfare through the lens the holy Rosary. Let’s look at the first secret.

Never trust in yourself but abandon yourself totally to My will.”

In this first secret, Jesus sets the foundation for the subsequent ones. All these secrets revolve around practicing humble faith. It’s having the faith that leaving everything in God’s hands will see you through all the challenges and hardships in your life and eventually lead you into God’s heavenly kingdom. It’s following God’s Will even when it seems ridiculous or difficult.

Naturally, Jesus is the embodiment of completely trusting God’s plan. When he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (First Sorrowful Mystery), He said “not my will, but your will be done” (Luke 42:22). He put his life entirely in God’s hands. And while that may have led to physical suffering and death, it ultimately led to Jesus conquering death and opening the gates of Heaven for us all. Jesus didn’t redeem us all by doing his will, but God’s Will.

We fight battles every day. We fight against the temptation to sin. We also fight the temptation to be lazy in our faith which leaves us vulnerable to Satan’s influence. We need all the help we can get. But when we try to do things our own way, we are like a soldier ignoring the well thought out plan and charging out on our own only to be cut down by gunfire. God is our general in this spiritual war and we need to listen to Him. God tells us to trust Him and that when we do, true joy and happiness will come either in this life or our eternal life with Him in Heaven.

This faith doesn’t come easy and this is where daily Rosary prayer is so important. We need to meditate on the faith Jesus showed in the First Sorrowful Mystery. Or the faith that Mary showed in the First Joyful Mystery. We need to take the words and experiences of the saints seriously, as if God was telling them directly to us.

 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Jesus didn’t hold anything back. He didn’t sort of follow God’s Will. He put his life entirely in God’s hands. And that is what Jesus tells us to do through the first secret of spiritual warfare recorded by Saint Faustina. Sort of following God’s will is like wearing armor with a crack. It’s better than nothing but Satan can still exploit that weakness. For your soul, let God completely protect you. When you pray the Rosary, ask yourself and meditate on these questions.

  • Are you trying to live according to God’s Will or your will?
  • Are you taking the time to pray and listen to God?
  • Are you holding anything back from completely following God?
  • Are you receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation to better let go of your earthly desires and sins and instead desire whatever God has planned for you?

Breaking Out of The Routine Through Prayer

Someone I know has a son who has some issues interacting with others. It’s nothing serious but he does sometimes live in his own little world and doesn’t respond well to directions. One morning when she was at her wit’s end, this mom decided the two of them would go to a church to pray. It’s something they don’t usually do. But she thought it would be a great idea to “break out of the routine and try something different.”

There were a few things that I liked about this story. First, I thought the notion of going to church and praying to break out of the routine was a fascinating idea. It reminded me how we so often go through our day without including God. We encounter challenges, experience triumphs, and have many things to be thankful for. And yet, instead of including Him in our day, God is an afterthought. Many of our routines do no include God which is a shame. How many of our challenges could He help us with if we only asked? How much better would our days be if we included God in the routine?

I also liked the idea that when times were tough for this parent, instead of running away from God, she ran towards Him. She didn’t blame God but instead asked for His help in prayer. I’m sure there were some moments of asking “why?” But she approached God as a source of help, not someone who many of us wrongly see as the source of our hardships. The world brings about hardship. God brings comfort in that hardship.

When I pray the Rosary and think about how we must break out of any worldly routines, I meditate on the First Joyful Mystery. I don’t think any of us can say that Mary’s life was routine after the Annunciation. Everything changed both for her and for us. Mary’s “yes” to God changed her life. I think we need to also say “yes” to God so that He may change our lives. While it’s true that God will be with us through our lives whether we ask Him to or not, it helps immensely when we are receptive towards Him. We have to break out of our routine of work, hobbies, housework, etc. and remember to include God in our lives. And this is best achieved in the stillness and quietness of prayer.

We also can’t run away or blame God for the hardships in our lives. Jesus didn’t blame God for His Passion and Crucifixion. Instead, Jesus asked for God’s help through prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that God was asking a lot from Him. And sometimes God asks a lot from us. But God doesn’t abandon us. He will help us if we have the awareness to ask for His help.

Life isn’t easy. But we make it much more difficult when we try to tackle life’s challenges on our own. God is always there ready to help us. All we need to do is take a break from our busy routines and talk to Him in prayer.

The Miracle of Endurance

It’s only human to compare the challenges and difficulties in our personal lives to the highlights of others. We feel envious on social media seeing the supposedly glamorous lives our friends lead. It seems like all my friends are enjoying perpetual vacations and attend parties every day. Meanwhile, I’m working long hours and need to pay yet another high water bill. I think, “it’s just not fair!” Why do good things happen to everyone except me?

When I pray the rosary, the same thoughts come into my head when I pray the Second Luminous and the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. When I meditate on the Miracle at Cana I ask God to bless those with the miracles they need (or at least I think they need). Maybe a family member or loved one needs the miracle of healing. Maybe someone needs the miracle of repairing a broken relationship. Maybe someone needs a miracle of steady employment. But instead, I often feel like God answers these requests with a cross. Instead of a miracle like at Cana, He gives us a cross like Jesus in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.

It seems unfair that God has these two sides. On one hand, He is capable of miraculous acts of healing and blessings of good fortune. But on the other hand, it feels like He’s leaving us on our own to struggle under our crosses. Why does God give me a cross when I need a miracle? We believe that God hears and answers our prayers. We pray the Memorare with the promise of Mary’s intercession. But where are my miracles? Why don’t I see God stepping into my life to help me through life’s challenges?

The nature of God’s intervention and His miracles can be seen in Jesus’ Passion. When Jesus carried His cross, there were in fact miracles taking place. The fact that Jesus found the strength to get back up and carry the cross to His crucifixion is a miracle. It’s miraculous that Jesus forgave the people who crucified Him before He died. Think of the Centurian who said, “Truly He was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). How many others came to believe in Jesus on that sorrowful day? That seems rather miraculous to me. And of course, when you take the long view as God does, Jesus’ Passion led to His resurrection, the empowerment of His disciples by the Holy Spirit, and eventually the spread of Christianity around the globe.

The same principle applies to our lives. While we might see endless hardship, we may overlook that God gives us the strength to endure another day. That is another day to do good, to help others, and pray for those who need it (like souls in Purgatory). It is another day to receive God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s another day to receive our Lord through the Eucharist. In essence, every day God gives us the miracle of time. And that time is an opportunity to bring ourselves closer to God.

I know we all want the overt miracles like the changing of water to wine at Cana. And we bemoan hardships like a natural disaster, sickness, losing a job, poor finances, etc. But those hardships are just the results of physics, chemistry, biology, economics, etc. They aren’t things that God necessarily needs to save or relieve us from. In the long view that God takes, they will pass much like how Jesus’ pain in carrying the cross passed. We may bend, we may fall, but if we stay close to God, He won’t allow us to break. God leads us through all our challenges if we have the faith to let Him. And when all is done in this life, we can stand before God and He will welcome us into His Kingdom of Heaven. And that is truly miraculous.

I’ll leave you with the words from a famous poem, Footprints in the Sand. I think it sums up nicely that God does perform miracles in the hardest parts of our lives even when we don’t know it.

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”