Joan was in her 80’s. When her husband, Richard died, it was the worst experience of her life. Yet, she did not fall apart. Richard had been sick for about three years, in and out of hospitals more times than she could remember. He suffered a lot during that time. And, indirectly, so did she.
Here’s why Joan didn’t fall apart during this difficult time: she was daily inspired by how Richard responded to his illness. Although she had always known her husband to be a man of exceptional character, the way he responded to setbacks and sickness was exceptional. She would often think to herself: “I couldn’t handle this the way Richard does”.
So here’s Joan sitting in the conference room of the parish rectory. She’s with her two sons and her daughter to plan the funeral for her husband. During the session she’s asked, “Is there anything about your husband that might be good to mention to help Father prepare his homily for the Mass?”
And she responded, “My husband was always a man of great faith. When he found out that he was really sick, he reminded me of his favorite line from Scripture: “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” He said that whenever he read it he was able to put things back in proper perspective and keep himself calm. Richard would always say that no one gets through this life without having to deal with challenges and suffering. But he learned to trust God in good times and in bad times. He was confident that God would help him, and that some good would come of the most difficult of situations. For Richard, God’s plan was the one he was going to follow, not his plan. He felt that God knew what he was doing, and therefore he was going to trust him. Because of his strong faith, Richard rarely lost his cool, and he never complained about all the difficulties he experienced. So, maybe this will help Father when he writes his homily.
St. Paul’s letter to Timothy speaks powerfully to us across the centuries. Especially during Lent. Bear your share of hardship with the strength that comes from God. So try not to panic when things go wrong in your life. God will not abandon you. So try not to let the devil take away your sense of peace.
Father Ciszek said, in one of his conferences when he came back to America, that one of the ways that we can keep the devil from stealing our peace is to have patience with ourselves:
“Patience with ourselves flows really from the virtue of temperance, the habit of being moderate or reacting moderately when trying circumstances rise up against us…for when we are patient with ourselves…then we know he will help us not to sin and will forgive us when we do. Most of all, it will prove that we love him enough to offer him the many, many imperfect acts of our day and know that Our Father made us because he loves us. He will accept these acts as sacred and sublime gifts with a blindness that only love can achieve.”
So bear your share of hardship with the strength that comes from God.