We are just a few days into the Lenten season. Are you already missing that thing you gave up for Lent? Or maybe you took something on for Lent and you are feeling the strain of it. If you’re already feeling this way, you may be wondering how you can make it another six weeks. But rather than feeling guilty, take heart. This experience is helping to produce perseverance!
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on perseverance, and how it can help us look at our struggles and suffering in a new way. He said:
“You and I are being tested. We are being tested in this life just as Abraham was tested, as Moses was tested, as Elijah was tested. Everybody inside of Scripture was tested, even Jesus Himself was tested and experienced trial. Why? Because it produces perseverance.
I would love to just pray to the Lord and ask for perseverance. Just as I would prefer to pray and just get the gift of patience. But that’s not how it works. When we ask for patience, what God gives us are opportunities to practice patience. When we ask for perseverance, what we get are difficult circumstances in order to grow.
In fact, St. James says that our perseverance must be perfect so that you and I may be perfect, and lacking in nothing. So, we need perseverance to keep going in the spiritual life. St. James is exhorting us to look at our lives and ask if we are seeing the trials that God allows in the right light.
Let me ask you something. When you look at your life and you see the trials, list them out. Maybe you’re struggling with cancer, struggling with paying your bills, suffering because your kids aren’t coming to Mass, hurting because your spouse isn’t giving you the time of day. And these are all really serious trials, very difficult things in our life that we might go through.
Why does God allow it? Because it is testing our faith so that it produces perseverance. Just take one of those examples – wanting your kids to come back to Mass. I know how painful that is. I hear from many parents, so often, who want their children to return to the sacraments. Maybe you’ve recognized how important the sacraments are and how essential Sunday Mass is, but your children haven’t.
And you’re wondering how to communicate that. You’ve tried to tell them that over and over and they don’t listen. You’ve tried to do it nicely, you’ve tried to do it meanly, you’ve tried to do it subtly, you’ve tried to do it obviously. You’ve tried so many ways and they’re not hearing you.
Do you know who can identify with you? St. Monica, St. Augustine’s mother, who went through the same experience. And she’s a saint precisely because of her perseverance. Precisely because she didn’t lose hope that her son would not only come back to the Church, but would become an amazing saint. So if you find yourself struggling to persevere, maybe it’s in that list you hold of the struggles you have, the difficulties you face. Maybe you need to start looking at them as opportunities for growth.
Rather than seeing them as obstacles, rather than seeing them as stumbling blocks, these are elements that the Lord gives to us to grow in perseverance. You and I need to recognize that these are all opportunities that the Lord gives us.
It is difficult, I know, but it is possible for us to discover in Christ our reliance on Him. The way we are called to live our life, not focusing on material things, but instead focusing on spiritual things. Not focusing on temporal conveniences and satisfactions, but instead on the trials that God allows. The trials that produce perseverance, the sufferings that allow us to become the saints that God wants us to be, the ways we can keep growing in faith.
It’s about perspective. It’s about focusing on the right things, and it’s about choosing the right things. You and I have this opportunity. Let’s recognize the opportunity for conversion in our lives. Let’s recognize the trials that God allows that should produce perseverance. Let’s embrace them.”
Listen to the full reflection below:
St. Joseph’s Workshop with Father Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.