My responsibilities at work have become overwhelming. My personal life has fallen apart simultaneously. My fiancée has postponed our wedding and says she is having second thoughts. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, I found out I have cancer. It is a curable case, but it is one more thing to worry about. How can I possibly stay focused at work so that my current situation does not become more complicated by losing my job?
Whenever I think about situations that are bleak, I am reminded of Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist who suffered through the concentration camp at Auschwitz during World War II. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, he described how the victims who continued to think about the day when they would be released and returned to their families remained the healthiest mentally. In addition, those who shared what little food they had with their fellow man remained healthier physically, despite being more malnourished.
There are two very valuable lessons to be extracted here. Both are supported by our Catholic faith. The first is to have hope. Certainly, it is important in these situations to have the theological virtue of hope: the hope in Christ for eternal salvation. But it is also important to have temporal hope. Hope that God can and will be at your side in practical ways to assist you and strengthen you.
I have learned through my own experience, as well as through stories of faithful Catholics, that sometimes it seems that change occurs only when you get to your breaking point. God assists us in one of two very different ways. He either helps us gather more strength at times of need, or he relieves the presence of the burden to some degree, if not entirely. Personally, I almost always prefer the latter, but God’s will is not always our own, and his interest is more in our salvation than in our earthly comfort. So when things are difficult, stay faithful, and know that help is on the way, one way or another.
The second thing that you can apply from Man’s Search for Meaning is that stepping outside of yourself to assist others at times when you feel that you are the one in need can help strengthen you. In other words, it is at the time where you might feel like you have nothing left to give that giving is most important. This is not easy advice. When you wake up and look in the mirror facing your challenges, the last thing you might feel like doing is seeking out others who need help, but that might be what you need to get through the day.
Helping others in need is a great perspective-builder and an incredible way to empower yourself by building additional strength. As it pertains to the workplace, you can listen to a co-worker in need or assist in a project that needs your strengths. This helps you focus on the strength you currently have rather than your weaknesses.
Of course, a positive outlook, continuous prayer and receiving the sacraments will strengthen you as well. Remaining in the state of grace will give you clarity; it will be the bedrock for receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Catholic business consultant Dave Durand is online at DaveDurand.com.