The past two months have been quite interesting in my personal life. I left my ministry position as Director of Religious Education, accepted a new position as Youth Minister and Confirmation Coordinator, packed up a complete apartment with the help of my amazing family, moved 600 miles into another state and am working on settling back into some semblance of a normal rhythm before officially starting my new position next week. (I’ll admit I’ve been an eager beaver and trying to get my hands on as much material and preparing to get on the ground running)
Struggle can be defined as” to contend with an adversary or opposing force” and is essential to a great life. Let’s look at some fictional examples. Imagine had Romeo and Juliet been allowed to get married, Katness and Peta never chosen for the Hunger Games, or Voldemort never rearing his noseless head again; where would the story be? In any interesting story or noteworthy area of someone’s life there needs to be a rising conflict and eventual resolution.
Often in lieu of “offer it up”, my friends would say, “Christ never said life was easy, but he did say it was worth it.” They were referencing this “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11: 28 – 30
For those of you not familiar with farming, a yoke was a device personally fitted for one particular set of oxen in order for them to pull together. They were crafted by master carpenters who would make sure that they would sit exactly on the shoulders of the oxen without causing harm or injury. Yoke were designed to support the oxen who would share the load uniformly and would encourage the other if they were getting tired.
So imagine Christ handing you this big chunk of wood saying , “wear this, it fits well and it will help you get through tough situations.” Depending on your vocation in life, that second spot could be for your spouse, a parent, siblings, a dear friend, a member of a religious community, a fellow priest or Christ himself.
But how does this relate to struggle? Think about the last time something unexpected happened. Whether it was something good or something bad, what was your first reaction? If you are anything like me, my first reaction is I have to tell someone. If it’s something exciting, who do I share my joy with, if it’s hard who do I seek for help? Who is the person I am shoulder to shoulder with?
Struggle, although a natural effect of sin, help us to grow personally and spiritually. The question then becomes how do we overcome struggle? Here are some tips and tricks to help you through tough or uncertain times.
- Pray – There are many many many ways to pray, but probably one way that you connect to most. Whether it’s an Our Father, Hail Mary, the Rosary, reading the Bible or a favorite devotion; find the form of prayer that is most “comfortable” or easiest for you and utilize it.
- Find someone you trust – As I said above, most yokes need 2 oxen to work best. God never intended man to be alone and Jesus commissioned his disciples 2 by 2. Find that person you trust who can walk with you.
- Frequent the Sacraments – Starting the day with a clean slate or having the most perfect meal can make all the difference. Reconciliation and the Eucharist are tools to be utilized rather than something nice to do when you feel like it.
- Make a plan – no matter how overwhelming your struggle is, a plan can help put it into perspective and give you a path to get through it. Even if your plan is to make it through the month, week, day our even the hour, it can make a difference.
- One more thing – At a retreat I attended on the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola our spiritual director encouraged us to find one extra spiritual habit we could do. This habit is intended for something we can do to help us grow and keep incorporated after the struggle has passed.