Years ago, during a specific season of anxiety and other struggles, I sought out the grace of God by going to confession. There, I told the priest the many worries I had in my heart. Little did he know that what he told me during that confession would influence me almost every day thereafter. He said, “Ask the Holy Spirit for strength and courage.” I knew I needed courage. I didn’t feel strong or confident about the challenge I was facing. While I knew God was in control, I wasn’t sure about the details.
Sometimes, we try as hard as possible to keep holding on to whatever we are facing instead of surrendering and letting go. We might know we need to surrender, but we don’t know how.
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In our world, there are many concerns around us. What is happening in our country? Will we have another pandemic? Will we go to war? Will our Church survive with discord, strife and corruption? There’s only one way to survive these days of uncertainty. We need to pray, trust in God, and lay it down and let it go!
It’s for our salvation
St. Catherine of Siena said, “You must believe in truth that whatever God gives or permits is for your salvation.” That’s easier said than done. It’s easy to conjure up images of ourselves offering up our every difficulty for others, behaving cheerfully when thorns are in our sides. But what happens when things really do become challenging? Often, we fall under the weight of our crosses. But in those moments, God is near us. And his mother, our mother, is also eager to help us. Knowing that God permits this challenge, we can ask him to increase our faith, hope and love. We can ask our mother to guide us and help us believe that good will come of whatever we face.
Dwell on the good things
When things are difficult, we can learn to focus on God by looking at the beauty around us in the little things: the kindness of a friend, the smile of a stranger, the cooing of a baby. Instead of letting our minds go down the worry train, we can learn to meditate on truth, goodness and beauty. As St. Paul told us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. … Then the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:8-9).
We have been told to “rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pt 4:13). Having interior joy doesn’t mean we don’t feel frustration, fatigue and stress. It means that we have an interior hope and peace that can see beyond the moment and trust in the mercy of God.
Have you ever known anyone who remained joyful even with challenges and struggles? This is what we are called to do. Mother Teresa said, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls!” If we can remain joyful regardless of the struggle, we will not only glorify God but might even lead others to him. Our joy is a light to others. We have to laugh at ourselves, our defects and our faults. If we can lighten up a little, our challenges become more manageable. We can gain new insight when we try to see the humor in even the most difficult circumstances.
Jesus will calm the storm
Challenges come in different guises. Sometimes, we cause our problems; however, at other times, they are thrust upon us, and we must find a way to swim to the top for air.
When the apostles were being thrown around the boat during a great storm, Jesus came to their aid. They were filled with fear, knowing they could die if the boat capsized. But Jesus walked on water and said: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27). St. Peter got out of the boat and began to walk: “But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (Mt 14:30). Like us, St. Peter needed to rely on God for strength, not on his own power. The apostles had legitimate reasons for their fear, just like we do. But they learned to trust in God during the moments they couldn’t control and turned to him, who could control and calm the storm around them. Whatever challenge we face at the present moment will pass, and relying on God’s strength will help us get to the other side.
Ask the Holy Spirit for help
As Father mentioned in confession, don’t forget to call on the Holy Spirit when things are challenging. St. Augustine’s Holy Spirit prayer is a powerful supplication.
Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that all my thoughts may be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.
Link your time with God
We are only given today. It’s the only thing we can be sure of. If anxiety or fear is keeping you down, take your time and unite your moments with God in thanksgiving. Many saints talk about taking our time and connecting it with God. One of my favorites, St. Arnold Janssen, prayed a simple prayer every 15 minutes: “O God, Eternal Truth, I believe in You. O God, Our Strength and salvation, I trust in You! O God, Infinite Goodness, I love you with my whole heart!”
If you find yourself worrying, try praying on the hour like St. Gemma, who would simply say, “My Jesus, Mercy!” If you’d like to link your time to God, set timers as a reminder on your phone or clock. When the timer goes off, make the Sign of the Cross and bring your mind into the presence of God. With thanksgiving, lay your intentions down at the foot of the cross. Then, ask Mary to take them all to Jesus and say a prayer. By turning to God repeatedly, we can lean on him and live more united to God throughout the day.
In this time of turmoil and uncertainty, we can learn to grow in our faith and become stronger by turning to God over and over again. He really is our strength and our salvation. No matter what is going on in our lives, our world and our Church, we can live with the strength and courage that only comes from God. Will you lay it down and let it go?
What else can you do?
- Make the Sign of the Cross, and ask for God’s blessing.
- Attend Mass and spend time in the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament.
- Ask the Holy Spirit for strength and courage
- Ask Mary to help you by saying a Hail Mary.
- Offer your challenges for a suffering loved one or someone away from the Church.
- Ask yourself, “What can I control?” If it’s beyond your control, give it to God.
- When you feel overwhelmed or go down the worry train, stop! Lay it down and let it go!