During this past Lenten season, I read a powerful little book by Father Jacques Philippe, “The Way of Trust and Love, A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux.” Many thanks to those of you who participated in our weekly book club discussions, as our conversations provided new discoveries and surely multiplied any insights I may have gained from just reading the book on my own.
The final chapter in the book is titled, “Enduring Trials.” We read and discussed that chapter during Holy Week, which was such perfect timing (as the Lord well knew when He planned the schedule out for us earlier in the Fall!). We all agreed that this would be a chapter we’d re-read and return to again and again!
Trials and suffering are simply a part of life on planet earth. Not one of us can avoid that reality. Yet, how we each face that reality means the difference between interior peace and interior angst. This is our choice point! How will I respond to the trials and suffering in my life?
It helps me immensely to reflect on the deeply personal truths surrounding Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Jesus is God; God taken on human flesh. And because He is God and not bound by our concept of time – when He took on human flesh, He took on your flesh, your sorrow, your wounds. He took on my struggles, my heaviness, my sin. And He took it all to the cross. With His descent among the dead and His resurrection, He forged the way through all darkness, into new life.
We can say it like this – whatever it is that you or I are suffering, there is a way through it, because Christ has already forged that way! Actually, Christ IS the way, right? He meets us right where we are, takes our hand and personally guides us through even the deepest darkness. He is the Light and the Waymaker for our journey through darkness.
Only…how often in the midst of suffering have I completely forgotten all of that!? Instead of moving through, trusting in Christ, I stop! I bristle! I ball up my fists and cry, Jesus get me out of here! Don’t You see what’s happening to me?! Do you even care? Why, Lord why?
“Every crisis is a chance to grow, an invitation to undertake a certain kind of work on ourselves.” – Father Jacques Philippe
Father Philippe offers three rich points that have served as a powerful perspective shifter for me:
- Every trial is a trial of faith
- Every trial is a trial of hope
- Every trial is a trial of love
Father Philippe shares that there are questions we typically ask during trials that would indicate our lack of faith, hope or love and proposes that we ask ourselves new questions; questions that point us in the direction of acceptance, of spiritual growth and of deeper unity with Jesus.
Trial of Faith
Lord, what are You doing? How on earth is this going to work for good? Can’t You see how horrible this is?!
Oh, me of little faith! I accuse God or succumb to the temptation to believe He has abandoned me, forgetting that He is sovereign over absolutely everything. Standing in faith, the question to pray on is: “What act of faith are You inviting me to make in this situation?” What declaration of faith will I make, re-grounding myself in basic Truths, such as:
Jesus, I believe You are with me in this moment and in every moment.
Lord, I believe that You are sovereign over the entire universe and I surrender this [name specific burden or trial] into Your hands. Thank You for taking care of everything.
Trial of Hope
Here I will quote Father Philippe’s reflection verbatim, it is so powerful:
“When we are having a difficult time, one of the questions that comes up is this: In this painful experience, what do we rely on? What are we counting on? In what or whom do we place our hope? How are we thinking of getting out of it? The answer we’re invited to give is: I’m counting on the Lord. I’m expecting help from Him.” This doesn’t mean I’m not going to apply all the human resources available, but at the deepest level, I abandon myself into God’s hands, and it is in Him that I hope.”
The trial of hope is where I find myself relating most. In moments of pain or times of suffering, thoughts [read: lies] from a very old tape play on in my mind…this is never going to change, there is nothing I can do, it’s just going to get worse and worse… Our thoughts generate emotions that are consistent or aligned with those thoughts. So with the thoughts above running through my mind, I feel overwhelmed, helpless and hopeless. In my perceived helplessness, I grasp for a sense of security, typically by trying to control people in my life or circumstances around me. This choice always leads to interior angst and dis-ease.
The way out is claiming that my ultimate security is God and God alone. Making the choice anew to trust the Lord and surrendering my desire for control allows me to find my true security more fully in God, who is my Hope.
Trial of Love
I am continually sensing the interior admonition to purify my prayers; to make my prayer less based on my self-interest and more accepting of people and circumstances as they are. My trials become trials of love as they call me to notice how my loving has become more conditional, less free, more self-serving. The question here is, what conversion am I being summoned to undertake that will lead me to love that is truer and purer? I’m gonna go pull out the Litany of Humility to help me with this one!
I don’t know about you, but the questions posed above give me plenty to pray and meditate on for the foreseeable future! Father Philippe sure delivers quite a punch with his little 140-page book. Check it out here.
“In sum, faced with trials we shouldn’t be afraid. We should accept things as they come, even if that isn’t how we expected our lives to unfold. Let’s try to discern, within that trial, the calls being made to us, the conversions being suggested, and then we will find the grace to live through them. “ – Father Jacques Philippe
Copyright 2020, De Yarrison