I can relate to the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day because I just had an entire week of bad days! My phone was cancelled by mistake, and it took six days and talks with seven agents before it was restored. I lost the PBS station on TV (jeopardizing my viewing of Downton Abbey). A new talk I spent days preparing turned out to be cancelled, but no one thought to tell me. Instead of sprinkling a dash of cinnamon in my coffee, I grabbed the wrong bottle and tossed in half of my Vitamin D pills. Then when I stood up, I walked into an open cabinet door. On my way to be a substitute reader at Sunday Mass, I stopped to do an act of charity and got stuck in an icy snowdrift on the side of the driveway; AAA said they’d be there within an hour and half. The reading for that Mass happened to be from the Book of Job. I thought, Just call me Sister Jobette.
No doubt you’ve had similar frustrating experiences. They have been part of life ever since we got ourselves evicted from Paradise. Maybe, like Abraham and Job, we are being tested. So how does a Christian cope? It helps to keep muttering, “This too shall pass.” But there are other strategies. We can consider that our problem could always be worse. (Like I could have driven into a person instead of a snowdrift!) We can make good use of our trials by offering them up. My week was offered for a twenty-one-year old woman with a rare brain disease whose surgery just failed. We can also put our crises in perspective. As the saying goes, “I cried because I had no shoes, but then I met a man who had no feet.” We can realize that we are in good company: none of the saints had it easy, probably because Jesus promised his followers crosses. As this season of Lent begins when we focus on the sacrifice of Jesus, we might remember to unite any of our sufferings with his and thereby contribute to the salvation of the world.
Reflecting on my problems, I can see that some good came from them besides making my life interesting. For one thing, I met many nice people including the technician who came to the house to adjust the phone wire, the person who restored channel 2, and the man who helped shoveled my car out. The early morning mishaps might be a grace in disguise: a lesson for me to slow down. As for the cancelled talk, my work was not in vain. I realized that the material I developed could be used in a chapter of a book I’m currently writing. In the midst of my trials, and enduring subzero temperatures, suddenly there was an unexpected joy: the sight of an exquisite ice design on my window.
If we ask God why annoying sufferings happen, the answer might be to make us stronger. In Scripture we read, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3–5). Patience (suffering calmly) is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is a sign that God is living and active within us. Now what to do about my frozen cold water pipes?
What strategies do you find helpful to see you through life’s challenges?