How to Embrace Adversity with Courage
How to Embrace Adversity with Courage
Life is full of ups and downs… from small things in our day to day lives that pose moments of inconvenience or concern, to bigger moments (ahem...pandemics) that turn our lives upside down, change everything, and make suffering a very real and tangible thing.
For many, perhaps the most human response to adversity is to try to avoid it -- to try to maintain the status quo as far as possible, and to shield ourselves from suffering. But as Catholics, we are called to not only turn to Jesus Christ in our suffering and adversity, but also emulate Him in the midst of it.
Though it is never easy, we are called to embrace adversity with courage, allowing it to make us holy and bring us closer to God.
Courage as a Cardinal Virtue
But what is courage? This virtue is one of the four cardinal virtues, alongside wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. Cardinal virtues are those virtues that all other virtues hinge upon. It has also been defined as the “virtue of bravery in facing difficulties, especially in overcoming the fear of consequences in doing good.” This may be in regards to moral courage -- doing what is right even though it may be hard, painful, or have consequences, as well as physical courage, or “bodily or emotional strength to withstand opposition.”
In other words, courage allows one to be afraid of what lies ahead, but supplies the grace, grit, and determination to press on anyway. It is a virtue that means facing adversity, embracing it, and most importantly, trusting God through it -- even when there are painful or even dire consequences or potential outcomes.
What does God ask us to do in times of adversity?
Our Catholic faith calls us to respond to adversity in a special way. Ultimately, God asks us to trust Him in all things. This is repeated countless times throughout Scripture and by the saints. We are continually invited to trust in the providential mercy of God even in trial and tribulation.
As Fulton Sheen wrote in 1973, “In the area of religion, the secret of courage is: ‘I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.’” And this is the essence of what God asks us to do, not only in adversity but in all things: fear nothing, for He is a good Father who wants what is best for us.
When it comes to facing adversity, God invites us to consider the words of the Psalmist: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” God wants us to take the one step at a time that He illumines for us, trusting Him with all the uncertainties and adversities still yet shrouded in darkness.
How to Embrace Adversity with Courage… Instead of Run Away From It
Adversities we face throughout life are crosses we can either choose to embrace, carry, and be sanctified by -- or we can run away from them, which is really no way to live if we truly believe in the hope of the resurrection.
Christ handled His own cross by embracing it and offering His suffering and death for the salvation of humanity. We can embrace our own crosses, too, and allow suffering to make us holy and bring us closer to God. Here are some suggestions on how to keep this approach to adversity in focus:
Perhaps the most important way to embrace adversity instead of running away from it is to surrender yourself to God at the outset of any trial. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and no matter what we face, we can rest in the fact that He doesn’t permit any suffering that can’t be used for the good of our eternal soul and for His glory.
Even in the midst of adversity, we can find peace in accepting all things as coming from God, and placing even the most terrifying of circumstances into His hands, asking for the grace to persevere.
Be Not Afraid
Even in adversity, we should strive to trust that God knows what is best for us, even though we may not see how specific trials fit into the larger scope of our lives. We can think of it as a parent-child relationship: parents make decisions that children find upsetting, distressing, or confusing at the time -- even though it’s clear that such a decision (a trip to the dentist or doctor’s office, for example) is for the child’s own good.
To quote Fulton Sheen yet again, “All the fears of life are expelled by a great love, and love is the only thing that can successfully cope with them.” Trials become easier to bear when we consider and focus on the love of God. God doesn’t permit suffering and adversity for any other reason than He loves us, as paradoxical as it may sound in human terms.
Adversity is a time to double down on your prayer life and devotions. In addition to spending time in silent prayer daily, adding the Rosary is a way to meditate on the life of Christ and of Mary, contemplating how each of them faced adversity with grace, peace, and trust in God the Father.
In times of trial, don’t underestimate the importance of silence, either. This is especially important at a time when so many things compete for our attention, from entertainment to social media to the news and more. We’ve written about the importance of silence before, but making time for Eucharistic Adoration when you’re facing something difficult is an opportunity for you to be alone with Christ in the Eucharist, and listen to Him speak to you and bring peace to whatever storm you’re facing.
Find Your Simon
“As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyre′ne, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross.” | Matthew 27:32
As Jesus made His way along the Via Dolorosa -- the Way of the Cross -- toward His crucifixion, Simon of Cyrene helped Him carry the cross. This would seem to remind us that when we’re carrying our own crosses, it’s important for us to find our own “Simon” -- to find a friend, a community, a support system to help us through adversity and keep our eyes fixed upon the end goal.
God is a Loving Father
“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.” | St Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales reminds us that God is a loving Father and will either shield us from adversity, or give us the grace to persevere. This fact can give us peace about any uncertainty or trial, no matter how daunting it may seem!
How do you embrace adversity? What aspects of our faith help you in challenging times?
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