Everyone goes through rough times at some point in life.
Sometimes, it’s the death of a parent … or child.
Sometimes it’s the loss of a job … or a love.
Other times it might be the diagnosis of a physical disease, or the news that despite best efforts, a child has turned from the faith; or a relative is fighting an addiction; or a close friend deeply disappoints us; or a relationship crumbles.
Perhaps we are troubled by some situation we ourselves have gotten ourselves into … and finally recognize the foolishness of our ways and want out … but don’t know how to get there.
Finally, maybe we get to a point when torrential rain after torrential rain of affliction hits us hard, and we desperately seek reprieve, but can’t seem to find peace, or relief. What on earth are we supposed to do, when prayer is dry and hope is distant and we feel far away from God?
Here are some tricks I’ve learned and collected from people I respect and love, for how to get through those desperate times.
• Pray. I know. This seems useless. You feel spiritually dry and as if you are getting nothing from the prayer. Guess what? God sees. He understands. With your good intentions, He multiplies like He did with the loaves and the fishes. One sincere, honest supplication is all it takes. Asking once can be enough.
If your prayer life is dry, pray anyway. God sees your efforts and like a kind father to a frantic child, He will take care of you. Be patient. The results may not immediately be seen. And God may be bringing us through the dark for a purpose of growth.
We see the knotty side of the quilt. In time, the beautiful handiwork of the beautiful side will be seen.
The most powerful spiritual weapons, my sister Mary reminded me the other day, are Masses, which we can attend, and which we can also have offered for the important intention or intentions. She also reminded me of the importance of asking for the Blessed Mother’s intercession. The Blessed Mother loves to intercede for us. She cried on Calvary and suffered real human sufferings like ours. She wants to bring our intentions to her Son. Let her help.
• Seek out the sacraments. Reconciliation and Holy Communion are natural healing balms to the troubled soul and body. You don’t have to feel them with a dramatic shock to know they are at work.
Once my husband was deathly ill, hospitalized for acute septicemia, which came about suddenly from an undiagnosed primary infection. His temperature rose higher than 105, and doctors put him on an ice bed to prevent brain damage. His blood work was erratically abnormal and potent antibiotics were pumped through his veins. There was talk of an emergency lift to Riley Hospital in Indianapolis.
After the reception of the Sacrament of the Sick, however, his white blood cell count, which was dangerously low, inexplicably began to normalize and within a day he grew surprisingly stronger and his physical health was restored. This began the moment he received the Sacrament of the Sick. True story. I was there.
When you feel enticed to despair or give in to temptation, my friend Susan says, “Be stubborn. Refuse to give up and give in. Do not entertain any negative thoughts. Any time a dangerous thought enters your mind, immediately and deliberately push that thought away. Just put one foot in front of another and press on.”
Susan also suggests finding a phrase that you can repeat to yourself until that temptation or thought or struggle leaves. “Passion of Christ, strengthen me” is one such phrase, or, “My Jesus, Mercy.” She also says that if a certain time of the day makes your thoughts go in a direction that you do not or should not go you should change your routine. In other words, avoid the temptation. Finally, she says to find consolation during difficult times wherever you can — in a beautiful sunrise, the refrain from a lovely song, elegant wording of a prayer, the whiff of fresh autumn air, the hug of a child, the closeness of a spouse.
She recommends not over-thinking the situation and challenge. She says not to entertain persistent evaluations, reconsiderations or fluctuating emotions, or go over and over the problem or the private grief. She said to busy yourself with tasks to avoid stewing.
Susan reminds us not to think about daily skirmishes and minor spiritual wins and losses in terms of feelings because the only thing that matters is our will and the final battle. If we stay close to Christ despite dryness, we will be safe. Our time is not God’s time, she says. Remember that God cannot fill us unless we are empty. If it is His will, in humility, we must allow Him to empty us. Peace.
• Lastly, try to maintain a sense of humor. St. Teresa of Avila is quoted as saying, “If this is the way you treat your friends (Lord), no wonder you have so few of them.”
I like to watch “I Love Lucy” reruns when I feel desperate and challenged. Coupled with the other suggestions above, this allows me to relax and put things in perspective, even if just for a few moments. God created laughter too, you know. We can have joy in our sorrow. The reprieve is God’s gift.
And, if nothing seems to work, in the midst of your worst troubles, simply try to muster up your faith and press on. This too shall pass. God bless you!
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