A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘challenges

When the UV index is high, we know to look for shade—especially those who, like me, burn at the drop of a hat. When there’s a blizzard, we know to get off the roads and find a safe place to wait it out. And when there’s a thunderstorm, we know to seek shelter, and not under a tree.

We know how to handle tough weather conditions, but we don’t always know how to deal with the storms life sends our way. We may try to cope by spending more time at work, looking for ways to numb or block out the pain, or overindulging—anything to keep from feeling what we feel.

Why do we try to tough it out rather than turn to God?

In Psalm 118:5*, the psalmist says this:

Out of my distress I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me free.

Sometimes we’re slow to call on the Lord, even though we know that he is always faithful, always ready to hear our prayers, always merciful and loving, and always a safe place for us, as we read in verses 8 and 9:

It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to put confidence in man.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to put confidence in princes.

We need people in our lives we can trust and depend on but, being only human, people will let us down, sometimes through no fault of their own. God will always be there for us, no matter what challenges come our way—health concerns, job loss, financial problems, even betrayal by a friend or loved one.

When we face difficult times—and we will—it’s good to know that we have a God who is ready to listen and comfort us and help us make it through those times to better days so that we, like the psalmist, will know that the Lord is our strength.

The LORD is my strength and my song;

he has become my salvation.

~ Psalm 118:14

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

To those in the Ottawa area, this title probably seems odd, with snow falling and ice pellets, freezing rain and rain in the forecast for the next 24 hours. But I was inspired by these words in Psalm 84:11*, which I read yesterday:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;

he bestows favor and honor.

Right now, I’m facing a number of personal challenges–not just the work to sell my home but, among other things, the fact that someone in my family is reeling after a diagnosis of cancer. It comforts me to know that God is there to protect and shelter me because of his merciful and everlasting love for me and for all his children.

When we deal with challenges–physical, emotional, financial–we may instinctively want to keep the struggle to ourselves or try to power through it on our own. But God is there to lead us to people who can help us get through it, to comfort us with the knowledge that he will always hear us and never abandon us, to show us the way forward.

We may feel that our problems are too insignificant in the grand scheme of things to “bother” God about. Or that they’re too big for God to handle. We may not find our prayers answered in the way that we’d hoped, but no problem that confronts us is so small as to be beneath his notice. Remember these words of Jesus in Luke 12:24:

“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”

Nor does any problem loom too large for him to overcome. Think of the Lord’s words in Jeremiah 32:27:

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me?”

Whatever challenges we face, I pray that we would remember what an awesome God we have–a God who longs to spend time with us and talk with us and who wants us to bring our thanks and our cares to him.

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

~ Matthew 7:7-8

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

Remember the story of Sisyphus from Greek mythology? As a punishment for his lying and trickery, he was forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down—over and over again for eternity.

Sometimes we might feel like we’re pushing that boulder, trying to deal with a huge problem that we don’t think we’ll conquer before we run out of steam—our children’s acting-out behaviour, the struggle to find a good job, relationship problems, or even a bad habit that we just can’t break.

We can start to feel discouraged, defeated, even broken.

We won’t find our strength in other people, although we may welcome their active listening and support. We won’t find it in hobbies or physical activity, although they may help us relax. And we won’t find it in comfort food or cigarettes or caffeine or alcohol or compulsive rituals.

But as followers of Christ, we have a faithful source of strength to draw on to help us keep going, as we read in Isaiah 40:28-29*:

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary,

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

When my son was a little boy, he was full of energy and ready to push boundaries and test rules. Children don’t come with an instruction manual, and so I was learning as I went along—and I was tired. Often, at the end of the day, I would ask God to give me strength and help me be a good parent. As I look back, I can see that God has never failed to strengthen me to take on the next day’s parenting challenges.

Whatever obstacles we may be facing in our lives, we need to remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord:

  • When Sarah doubted she would be able to have a child, the Lord asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) And in their old age, Sarah and Abraham had a son (see Genesis 21:1-7).
  • When Jeremiah wondered how he could be sure that the people of Israel would return from exile, God asked him, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) And Israel returned from exile, as we read in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • When those who heard it would be difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God wondered who could be saved, Jesus told them, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

May we always remember that no challenge is too great for God to walk through with us and that he will hold us up when we are weak.

(T)hey who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

~ Isaiah 40:31

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)





practice at driving range

Spring is coming–the snow is melting on the golf courses, my husband notices…

Yesterday afternoon, I took my English bulldog for a walk around the neighbourhood. With the changeable weather lately, she hadn’t been out much, and we both appreciated the chance to stretch our legs.

But while she was excited about the patches of grass to walk on and the wonderful scents to be smelled, I noticed the garbage exposed by the melting snow, the mud that I didn’t want her to track home, and the puddles that threatened to soak my shoes.

Sometimes it’s far too easy to focus on the negative:

  • the unending cycle of laundry and dishes;
  • the annoyance of waiting for appointments or dealing with commuting hassles;
  • the persistent cold and damp weather;
  • the crying infant or whining toddler at Mass.

But if we choose to shift our focus and view things in a more positive light, we may also see opportunities to serve others and grow in faith:

  • Loads of laundry and dishes mean we’re clothed and well-fed. And instead of feeling annoyed, as though no one notices what needs to be done, we could ask for help with household chores and teach our children some life skills.
  • In a busy world, the time we spend sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, waiting for our children’s activities to wrap up, or commuting gives us a chance to just breathe, to talk to God about our day, or to listen to a Christian audio book or a rosary CD.
  • Although the weather is still damp and dreary, we can be thankful the rain and milder temperatures hold out the promise of spring. We can enjoy a walk (without boots!) while the skies are clear and appreciate that we’re heading out the door and coming home in the daylight. We can purchase seeds or bulbs for a garden—our own or maybe a prayer garden at our church—and start some seeds indoors. We can start spring cleaning, like sweeping out the garage and washing throw pillows or tidying up the children’s liturgy supplies and kitchen cupboards at church.
  • Crying children at Mass, as our parish priest loves to point out, mean that there are children at Mass! We can give thanks for that and try to support young families. Providing Christian board books for little ones, a quiet area for parents to feed and change them, and a children’s liturgy and family-friendly activities show our parish to be a welcoming place for families seeking a church home.

I pray that, instead of being worn down by the little things each day, we would ask God to help us to see things from his perspective—and to see opportunities instead of challenges.

Do everything through love and for love, making good use of the present moment, and do not be anxious about the future.

~ St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, quoted in “Celebrate April 2015,” Catholic Digest, April 2015

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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