tough times

How Can I Handle The Hard Times Better?

No one escapes it: the trials and tribulations of this life. It may look like some people never suffer. Glossy magazines and television shows that focus on “celebrity lifestyles” can make us feel as if we are living out a Dickens novel by comparison. But underneath all that glamour and shiny stuff, those folks have hard times too.

Maybe for you, it’s an illness. Perhaps it’s a sin you struggle with daily. It could be debt, or losing a job. Perhaps you’ve lost someone close to you, and grief has overtaken your life. It happens to everyone. As Catholics, we need to ask ourselves, “How can I handle the hard times better? What is there, in my faith life, that can prop me up?”

First, we have to know that God is not punishing us when we are sick or sorrowful. In John 9, Christ and his disciples pass by a man born blind. The disciples ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Notice that the disciples assume that someone must have done something terribly wrong, for this great burden to be laid on this man. But Jesus says no, there was no sin involved. The man’s suffering was so that God’s glory may be seen through this man. And Jesus cured him.

While Jesus may not cure every illness or problem, He will allow God’s grace to shine through, if we cooperate with Him. Let God know that you welcome Him into your life, even in the midst of suffering. If he wants to use you – even in your pain – allow Him to.

Have a sense of humor. Some of God’s best friends, the saints, were not immune to struggles, but many of them didn’t lose their sense of humor either. St. Theresa of Avila was one tough lady, a true prayer warrior. She also got malaria, had a hard time praying sometimes, and struggled with complaining about others. She also had great joy.

Once, when she was travelling to one of her convents, St. Teresa of Ávila was knocked off her donkey and fell into the mud, injuring her leg. “Lord,” she said, “you couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?”

And the response in prayer that she heard was, “That is how I treat my friends.”

Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”

When you are feeling overwhelmed, share your troubles. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill t he law of Christ.” Sharing your problems with a friend in Christ may not solve anything, but knowing that our friend cares and will pray with us and for us can relieve us of much anxiety.

When tough times hit, our instinct may be to pray less. Maybe we are mad at God for allowing pain into our lives. Maybe we think, “I haven’t got time to pray; I’m too busy trying to straighten out this mess!” The fact of the matter is, when times are hard, we need to pray MORE. Maybe a lot more. Deacon Joseph Michalak suggests praying all the Psalms, because they “offer accounts of many struggles, and end with praising God.”

Volunteer. You might do it casually, such as making sure your elderly neighbor gets a ride to church every week, or maybe you’ll be more formal and join an organization. Either way, serving others gets us “outside of ourselves.” We stop focusing on our issues, and help meet others’ needs. Offering your time and talent to someone else can also help put your own struggles in perspective.

Never underestimate the power of the sacraments. We wouldn’t never expect our car to run with an empty gas tank. Well, “grace” is sort of gas for the soul. It’s God own life within us, and God’s grace is always sufficient for whatever situation we are in. Go to Mass as often as possible (understanding that one must attend Sunday Mass to remain in a state of grace.) Take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you are sick, in need of surgery or have a chronic illness, ask your priest for the Anointing of the Sick. Even if your are still stuck in a difficult situation, God’s grace will be a fortress for your and His faithfulness a protective shield. Trust in God and in His gift of grace.

Finally, don’t be ashamed or hesitant to ask for help. If your finances are a mess, get an expert to go over them with you. If you are sick and cannot keep up with things like housework or cooking, ask your parish for help. If you are struggling with an addiction, find a group in your area (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) where you can find support. You may be surprised at how your friends and family will rise to the occasion once you let them in. Don’t go it alone.

We have a God who knows our pains, our worries, our struggles. While Jesus never sinned, He carried all of our sins on the way to Calvary. He lost people He loved. His dearest friends betrayed Him and took off when He needed them most. He was misunderstood by many, and treated as if He were a criminal, although He’d done no wrong. He understands far more than we give Him credit for. Trust Jesus with your tough times. He will not fail you.