We have to face it: in more ways than one we all experience many struggles: conflicts with others, temptation to sin, feelings of anxiety and fear, distraction in prayer, the pain of a breakup. The list can go on.
Here are 4 approaches we can take this Lent when we face our struggles.
1. Don’t be surprised
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the trials you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1Pet. 4:12
Think first of the ordinary struggles we face everyday: to get up in the morning, to be punctual, to complete an assignment or to stick to a diet.
However what should come to us as no surprise (but sometimes does) is that we have many internal struggles which given the choice we would actually do away with. We may even feel that it is unfair that our hearts have to battle with negative reactions, fear, insecurity and temptation.
But they are part of our life, even as Christians. So it is healthy not only to acknowledge them but to entrust ourselves totally to God again and again.
we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28
2. Open yourself to His grace and Mercy
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Rom. 7:18-19.
Who of us can claim to be exempt from the struggle with temptation? St Paul aptly describes this battle the quote above.
The Catechism also leaves us with no doubt about our struggles with temptation:
The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity (CCC 409).
Our part is to remain open to God’s mercy and grace:
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin …You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:5,7
3. Take Concrete Decisions
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Phil 2:12,13
We need to choose God’s side, not once but daily. Lent is all about conversion, making sure that I am living in the Father’s ’embrace of grace.’ (Luke 15:11-32) and growing in love and holiness.
We need to take concrete and practical decisions to co-operate with grace: daily prayer, fasting and the Eucharist help us draw closer to Jesus and to be slowly but surely, transformed by His grace, Our ‘no’ to selfishness by acts of self-denial is to say ‘yes’ to God’s love and to grow in authentically loving all those around us.
At the end of the day a lot is at stake. Our real peace, true happiness and unique mission can all be derailed in this life if we are not careful to cultivate a disciplined interior spiritual life.
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength Is. 30:15
4. Never Lose Heart
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? e are more than conquerors through him who loved us … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:31-32,38-39
Our struggle will one day come to an end and the Bible says that we will then enter our eternal rest but we need to persevere to the end and never lose heart
Lent which leads to the joy of Easter is an invitation to experience what Jesus Himself when through for us: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matt. 16:24. Unspeakable joy awaits us as we journey towards heaven.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6