You’re having a hard time right now because life is hard right now

I didn’t even bother coming up with a little introduction for this essay to work my way up to that idea, because you’re ready to hear it, right? Everyone is having a hard time. Everyone on the globe is feeling the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic in one way or another, and it seems like everyone I know is also struggling with some unusual problem on top of that.

The only other thing we all seem to have in common is that an unusual number of people seem to be thinking poorly of themselves because they are struggling. So many of my friends seem to feel that there is something wrong with them because they are so sad and exhausted. They feel like there are so many other people with worse problems than theirs, or they ought to have adapted to a new normal, or they ought to be glad things are not as bad as they were in the past, or something.

Not only are they having a hard time, they’re angry at themselves, embarrassed and ashamed because they’re even struggling. Everyone I know seems to be fighting terrible battles, and their worst enemy is their own self, who constantly sneers, “Oh, stop your whining. It’s not so bad.”

If you are hearing this voice, you should know that it’s not really your self saying it to you. Or that’s not where the thought has its roots, anyway. It’s an idea that comes from the evil one: This idea that your suffering is imaginary, not worthy of tears or attention.

Isn’t that strange, to think that the devil would want to deny suffering? If you look at medieval paintings, it looks like suffering is, as they say, extremely his jam: You’ll see bony, many-clawed demons gleefully cramming bushels of suffering souls into bubbling cauldrons, stretching them on racks, slicing them into ribbons, searing their flesh.

But I’ve found that some of my most hellish mental states come when I’m unwilling or unable, for whatever reason, to clearly and calmly identify my own suffering as real suffering. It’s counterintuitive, but there is something demonic about being unwilling to look suffering in the face. And there is something holy about calling suffering what it is. Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: Photo by Ron Porter via Pixabay (licensed)


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4 thoughts on “You’re having a hard time right now because life is hard right now”

  1. I once heard a sermon that summarized God’s speech to Job as, “I am God. You are suffering. I am still God.” I have repeated that to myself at difficult times. It tells me that things will ultimately be okay, without denying that I really am suffering.

  2. Facebook is down today! Life has lost all purpose and meaning.

    Which means instead of commenting there, I get to come to your actual blog to tell you how much this resonates with me and how much I needed to read this right now. I am constantly telling myself how lucky I am, how blessed, “it could be worse” — because it could — and compounding the struggling that I am going through by feeling very guilty that I am struggling and piling the guilt and sense that I “should be fine” on top of it. I am thankful that you put a spiritual face on this.

  3. I guess I get frustrated with myself because I’m one of the lucky ones. We’re healthy and doing fine financially. I am privileged to be able to homeschool to protect my son from exposure. But man, the decision fatigue is taking its toll, as well as worrying about the things my son is missing out on. And the fear that I could inadvertently spread the virus to someone else, despite my best efforts.

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