Stay Steadfast in Trials
Several months ago, my husband had both knees replaced. The after-surgery care and commitment were more challenging than either of us could have imagined. I likened it to bringing home a newborn from the hospital. Constant attention was required; the tiniest detail made a substantial difference. I quickly learned to rest when he rested, something every parent and many caregivers can relate to.
I think anytime we experience difficulties in life, and more specifically in relationships, they have the potential to bring those involved closer or further apart. The stress that results either drives a wedge between you or it incites increased trust, fuller understanding, and a deeper connection. I’m grateful that for my husband and me, the latter proved to be true. Consider how this truth can apply to our relationship with Christ. When the road gets bumpy, do we draw strength from our past—times when we were blessed to journey on a smooth, straight, and narrow path—easily avoiding the potholes of life? Or do we wallow in our misery, question God’s presence, and allow our relationship to deteriorate? Scripture tells us that if we are firmly committed to building and maintaining a sincere connection with Christ, trials and tribulations are to be expected: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Pope Francis expounded on this in his 2013 homily on the fifth Sunday of Easter, the day on which the sacrament of confirmation was conferred. “To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart.” The Pope assures us that if we learn to accept these challenges as something to be defeated rather than simply endured, the reward is great: “But difficulties and trials are part of the path that leads to God’s glory, just as they were for Jesus, who was glorified on the cross; we will always encounter them in life!” And finally, he gives insight on our leading tool of defense: “Do not be discouraged! We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!”
Remember, the Holy Spirit—when fully embraced—offers us seven gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God. These gifts give us the ability to overcome our human limitations and inspire us to be moved by the Spirit’s promptings (see John 14:23). Each is necessary to grow and strengthen our spiritual resolve and ultimately our bond with Christ. The actions that cultivate our unification with the Spirit are the same that serve us in our worldly relationships: respect, unconditional love, and mercy. In the words of Pope Francis: “Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide.”