Column: Unite your struggles with the Lord this Lent

Rick Cheek is the associate consultant for the office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth.
Rick Cheek is the associate consultant for the office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth.

by Rick Cheek 

“Is this normal? Because if this is normal, I don’t like it. It just hurts too much.”

Those were the words high school junior Sara Guetterman shared with me before youth group one evening after going through a very difficult first semester. She had lost a teacher, a classmate, a friend she made at Camp Tekakwitha and, finally, her cousin Nick all within a six-month period.

These were all fairly young people who lost their lives in automobile accidents. Whereas life and death are normal, losing so many so close friends and family in such a short amount of time is not.

At some point, we all will experience suffering. Will it be to the extreme of what Sara went through? I don’t think so. It could be something altogether different. What we choose to do with our suffering can determine how we get through those times. We can dwell on our sufferings and they will eat at us for as long as we allow them, or we can unite them with the sufferings of Our Lord.

I have a favorite line from the movie “The Lion King,” when Simba is dealing with the choices he made and the loss of his father. Rafiki the baboon hits him upside the head with his walking stick. Simba asks, “Why did you do that?” Rafiki replies, “What does it matter? It’s in the past.” Simba replies, “But it hurts.”

Rafiki’s reply is a lesson we should remember: The past can hurt; but you can either run from it or you can learn from it. The choice is up to us. One thing to remember: God will never abandon us, especially in our most difficult times.

During eucharistic adoration last week with our young people, I was praying on the sufferings I’ve seen in the lives of those close to me and the suffering that Our Lord endured on the road to Calvary and during his crucifixion.

As we are preparing for Lent, let’s grasp this opportunity to unite our sufferings, our struggles and our pain with the crucified Jesus. Offer some form of sacrifice to Jesus (fasting and almsgiving), seek reconciliation with him, and in adoration place your sufferings at the foot of the cross, asking Jesus to reveal to you what he wishes you to learn from your struggles.

My prayer for you this Lent is that you find some time to enter into meditation with Jesus. Through the presence of his grace, may these moments help you grow in faith by uniting your struggles with Our Lord.

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