A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘strength

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.)

 

 

 

 

We all struggle at one time or another. Maybe it’s because of stress at work or the loss of our job, financial concerns, the illness or death of a loved one, worry about our aging parents or the choices our children make, or challenges in our relationship with our boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse.

Forty-Part Motet

Part of Janet Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada.

Whatever the cause, we all face moments when we’d welcome a light in the darkness–a light to shine the way forward, to give us the courage and strength to keep going, to show us that we aren’t alone.

Can we let God be that light?

Today I read these words of David in Psalm 18:28*:

Yes, you light my lamp;

the LORD my God lightens my darkness.

Similarly, in Psalm 119:105–a meditation on “The Glories of God’s Law,” as the psalm is titled in the Revised Standard Version–we read this about God’s word:

Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path.

In reading God’s word and spending time in his presence, we can find the light we seek: the comfort and strength we lack in difficult times:

I love you, O LORD, my strength.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Yes, by you I can crush a troop;

and by my God I can leap over a wall.

This God–his way is perfect;

the promise of the LORD proves true;

he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:1-2, 29-30)

If we call on God, we’ll find that he is the rock that can’t be moved; he is the safe place for us to unburden our hearts; he is the one whose strength we can draw on and who can heal us.

Jesus told the disciples of John, when they asked if he was the Messiah, that “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). If we turn toward God’s light, we can see more clearly the road before us, begin to take steps to move forward, be cleansed of our sins and made new, hear his voice guiding us, start to change our lives for the better, and feel his Spirit at work in our lives.

And maybe, one day, we’ll be able to share that light with someone else searching for a light in the darkness.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

~ Matthew 5:16

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

 

Besides everyday chores, errands and lessons, my schedule for the week includes options night at one of the high schools my son is considering, preparation for a confirmation meeting and retreat, and the actual meeting and one-day retreat.

It’s the kind of week I almost don’t want to open my planner since every day has some notes scribbled in it.

As I added more activities to the planner, I wondered, “How am I going to have enough energy to get through the week?” I felt drained just thinking about it. And hoped I’d get adequate sleep to help me keep on keeping on.

Whether it’s days packed with business travel, meetings and appointments, our children’s activities, or preparation for a family vacation or a visit from out-of-town relatives, we all have these busy weeks. And so we make plans to keep going:

  • We’ll try to get enough rest each night.
  • We’ll stick to our workout schedule for stress relief.
  • We’ll take vitamins and try to prepare meals in advance so we make good food choices.
  • We’ll let some regular chores go for the week and focus on our must-do list.

All of these are great ideas for coping with stress. But do we also think to lean on God?

We need to remember that, just as he knows we worry about meeting our physical needs and he provides for them (see Matthew 6:25-34*), God also knows that we need to draw strength from time spent in his presence:

  • reading the Bible;
  • praying the rosary—even just one decade;
  • going to an early Mass or a service at noon near our home or workplace;
  • listening to some worship music; or
  • taking a few moments to be still with God.

This morning, I made the time to read the Bible, which I’d missed doing the past few days, and I came across Psalm 59:17:

O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,

for you, O God, are my fortress,

the God who shows me mercy.

And in searching for other passages about being strengthened by God, I found these and other verses on BibleStudyTools.com:

  • The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:14)
  • He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. (Isaiah 40:29)
  • I can do all things in him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

I pray that we would remember our best source of strength not only when we are in crisis mode but also when we feel overwhelmed by the hectic pace of life.

I love you, O LORD, my strength.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

~ Psalm 18:1-2

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

When I was nearly nine years old, my father was transferred to another military base, and so my family moved from Vancouver Island to southern Ontario. I missed the sounds and smell of the ocean, but I also missed the mountains. It took me a while to get used to seeing rolling hills instead.

Why are people so fascinated by mountains? We photograph them, paint them, and race to be the first to climb them. Perhaps it’s because these natural wonders are grander and more breathtaking than anything we could build.

The Bible refers many times to mountains, including the mountains of Ararat, where Noah’s ark came to rest (see Genesis 8:4); Mount Nebo, where God showed Moses the Promised Land (see Deuteronomy 34:1-4); and the Mount of Olives, from which Jesus rode into Jerusalem (see Matthew 21:1-11).

Regardless of their elevation or the view from the peak, mountains seem to symbolize endurance, and this is reflected in Psalm 125:1-2:

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,

which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.

As the mountains are round about Jerusalem,

so the LORD is round about his people,

from this time forth and for evermore.

(Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

The psalmist reminds us that faith in God will ground us and that the Lord lovingly protects and guards us—something it can be a comfort to know when everything from technology to standards of morality seems to shift overnight.

Sadly, many people are unaware of or have even forgotten the message of these verses. While the results of Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey may not be decisive, simple observation tells us that our culture is increasingly secular. For example, parks, golf courses and shopping centres tend to be busier than churches on a Sunday morning.

Yet the fact that so many people consider themselves “spiritual,” if not “religious,” shows that there is a hunger for the kind of peace and strength they could find only through faith.

I pray that those who are looking in the wrong places for that peace and strength would open their hearts to God and bring their cares to him.

And with Victoria Day weekend on the way, I pray that everyone would get lots of yard work done (if there’s no more frost here) and enjoy the fireworks. And please stay safe: don’t drink and drive—or text and drive.


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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