Discouraged by Current Events? Here Are 10 Ways to Lift up Your Heart
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I recently found myself working harder than usual at optimism. I won’t itemize the reasons; we all have our lists. But I came to realize that there were things on my list that needed to be removed — things that had emmeshed me deeper into the world than God intended for me to live.
All the bad news had given me a bad frame of mind. I had become too invested in the “game,” getting angry at the referees and wondering why God was letting players get away with fouls. And it was not just politics. The Church seems not to have been scoring points lately. Oh me, oh my, where was a faithful Catholic to go?
Rather than waiting for God to clean house, it’s up to us to put our own houses in order. Of course we must care about what goes on around us — living the Beatitudes — but huddling with the self-righteous to criticize everyone else undercuts the Gospel message. Disappointment is not supposed to bring us to despair, but to draw us nearer to our God for the strength to continue on ever stronger.
Yes, the culture is leading many astray, but resistance is made possible through holiness. Anger and despair are temptations from the evil one. Jesus taught us a better way: to pick up our cross and follow him, our Savior — the victor who was not afraid of losing, having lost his life for our sake.
I came to see that the heaviness upon me was an unnecessary yoke that could be lifted by reordering my thinking. Here are some thoughts that have helped me to regain a joy and peace anchored in Christ.
1. Everything is happening under God’s watch, so we should be at peace: “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand’” (John 13:7). “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
2. You can hate situations but not people. Pray for the players, regardless of their politics. It’s a way to love our enemies as ourselves as Jesus commanded.
3. Every disappointment is an opportunity for grace. We can offer up even the little irritations for our intentions.
4. Accept reality and then navigate our place in it. God put us here at this time and will guide us when we ask.
5. Worry is not a prayer. Padre Pio said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
6. Pray the Novena of Holy Surrender written by Father Dolindo Ruotolo (1882-1971) who lived in Naples, Italy, and has the title “Servant of God.” Each short prayer said for nine days is followed 10 times with, “O Jesus, I put all my trust in you; take care of everything.” It’s a powerful saying that can be said on its own whenever stress or sadness strikes.
7. Jesus forewarned of division so he expects us to rise to the occasion. “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Luke 12:53).
8. Accept the Christian challenge without complaining. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?‘” (Matthew 16:24-26)
9. Keep the faith. “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). “And those who know your name will put their trust in you, For you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).
10. Do more of the things that give you strength — prayer, adoration, fasting, reading the Bible, and performing acts of mercy — so that your soul will be well. Eat healthy, exercise and get fresh air so you feel good in mind and body. Clean, declutter and organize to be at peace in your surroundings.
It’s time to recover our resolve and perspective and see again what it means to be a Christian. God gave us a command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In that respect, nothing has changed. And nor should we.