Angela had a hard time falling asleep. Eventually she did, but then woke up before the alarm went off. She tried to get back to sleep, but she just couldn’t. All of her worries were washing over her like a tidal wave, and the more she tried to say Hail, Marys and Our Fathers, the more the worries seemed to drown out the words of those prayers.
Angela was in her mid sixties, but she was still in pretty good health. She tried to take care of herself by eating right and getting some sensible exercise most days. But the one thing she just couldn’t get a handle on was her anxiety. The minute she was thrown a curve ball in her life, or faced a trial of some sort, she would go into panic mode. She would start predicting the future, and in this process, would paint the worst picture possible of what could happen. Then she would convince herself that this was what was going to happen, and she would be filled with fear.
I know that many of us feel anxious and fearful at certain times in our life. Our response to these trials is to get lost in ourselves and be overwhelmed by fear. So, the question is this: How do we endure trials?
The point is often made that it’s hard to keep one’s trust in God while suffering. Jesus on the Cross pronounced the words, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Was this a lack of trust on Jesus’ part? It was no lack of trust, because Jesus’ words are in fact the opening words of Psalm 21. This psalm expresses great distress but ends on a magnificent note of hope:
For God has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him…
So, as we celebrate the great joy of Easter, how can we face up to the trials, the anxiety, in our life?
First of all: don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of life or the difficulties that we may have to face. In the end, every trial, no matter what its causes and characteristics are, is a trial of faith or of hope or of love.
Faith: We often wonder what God is doing in all of this and we ask, does he really love me or care about me? Is he present in what I’m living through? One of my favorite spiritual writers, Jacques Philippe, writes: “We are invited to respond by deciding to have faith: ‘I believe! I continue to trust God! Even though I can’t see, even though I don’t feel anything, even though appearances are against it, I decide to believe. I believe that God is faithful, that He will not let me fall, that He can draw something positive out of everything that is happening to me.’
Hope: The question comes up: what do we rely on? What are we counting on? What is our security based on? In whom do we place our hope? Here the invitation is this: I’m counting on the Lord, I’m expecting help from him…I will do my part but I will abandon myself into God’s hands.
Love: Perhaps our relationship with Christ is in crisis or our relationship with our spouse or a friend. Maybe there’s a problem with how we see ourselves. Here the invitation is to prayer, even when you don’t feel like praying. Maybe there’s an opportunity for us to be purified, maybe we are called to some type of conversion—to a truer and purer love.
Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. The darkness is dispelled by the light of Jesus who says, “Let me free you from the places in your life where you feel trapped, or afraid, or lost and confused. Take My hand and follow Me toward greater faith, hope and love. I will give you the strength you need to live a new life.