Why Suffering Makes You Stronger


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 15, 2017.


Saint Ignatius of Loyola said, “If God sends you many sufferings; it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” As a Catholic I admire the witness of the saints. From a theological and cerebral perspective Ignatius makes sense, but to a person in the midst of trials his words just bring frustration. I believe I am in a period of consolation at this point in my spiritual journey. As a result, my reflection on the Spanish saint’s words may take on a different form now than during a low point in my life.

What I have found to be interesting during the past few months that I have been writing is that my more popular and greater trafficked posts relate to topics on my sufferings: from my anxiety over daily items to my great tribulations in life so far. Today I believe there are three specific reasons why writing about my own limitations appeal to others.

suffering.jpg

Suffering is Universal

J.R.R. Tolkien refers to the objective reality of widespread sorrow in his legendary work The Lord of the Rings. Below is a brief conversation between the soon-to-be heroic hobbit Frodo and the wizard Gandalf:

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

Before I unpack the truth of Gandalf’s words, I will provide a little background on the nature of hobbits. According to both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, hobbits are creatures that traditionally kept to themselves and stayed out of the political affairs of Middle-Earth. Hobbits enjoyed farming and living a quiet, peaceful existence.

Is that true of yourself?

Perhaps you are an individual that prefers solitary and silent times for reflection. If you are not like a hobbit that is certainly alright as well, but there may be times in your life when you may desire the craziness of life to slow down. I know that is definitely true for me. I am naturally a hobbit at heart.

Sudden Suffering

Life always seems to throw a wrench into my plan. Just like Frodo Baggins’ life was interrupted by the War of the Ring and Gandalf’s strong urging to bear the ring, so too I experience expectations thrust upon me that I am ill-equipped to face.

Suffering is universal. It is inevitable. Humans do not have to travel long or far in this world before suffering rears its ugliness! This is the primary reason why I believe my writing on my personal suffering appeals to others—because people suffer daily.

Sometimes quotes from a fictional character seem to ring truer or strike a chord closer than words I can provide myself. Frodo’s best friend Samwise Gamgee sums up humanity’s worry against suffering best, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” We put ourselves into a paradox if we avoid suffering—we never step onto the road of life, but it is only stepping on the road that we are able to life. Avoidance of suffering is not fully living!

honesty is best policy.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honesty is the best policy

To continue on the fact that suffering is universal, I think that by truthfully acknowledging my limitations and sinful nature I open myself up to let others into my life. My favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, Francis de Sales, and G.K. Chesterton [to name a few]. Each writer admits their failings. I experience Lewis, de Sales, and Chesterton’s humanity through their writing.

In a similar fashion, I have noticed that my own personal favorite and best works are done when I am most honest—not when I utilize the best vocabulary or sentence structure. Half of the times, I am not even aware of what I am going to write about on a particular day or even how I am going to finish a post. Words flow from my mind more easily when I draw upon my experiences of suffering and strife. I cannot explain why that is the case. I can only say that my honesty about my past suffering acts as a cerebral embolectomy for my occasional writer’s block!

the_fellowship_of_the_ring___orange__dirty_by_chipsess0r-d744eef.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Fellowship Leads to Fitness in Battle

My battle against personal vices [anger, greed, impatience, pride, etc] is daunting. What makes my encounter with these evils more bearable is community. Through the fellowship of my family, faith community in the Catholic Church, and my readership I am soothed. I am reminded again of Tolkien’s trilogy during my personal struggles.

In the third book The Return of the King, weariness weighs down on Frodo as he ascends Mount Doom in his attempt to destroy Sauron’s Ring. Listen to the hero’s lament when the evil of the ring tempts him:

Frodo: I can’t recall the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass. I’m naked in the dark. There’s nothing–no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I can see him with my waking eyes.

Sam: Then let us be rid of it, once and for all. I can’t carry the ring for you, but I can carry you! Come on!

The main hero in the story experiences weakness and laments to the last individual from the original Fellowship formed at the beginning of the journey— fellow hobbit Samwise. Here a fellowship becomes incarnate in Sam. He is not the strongest, smartest, or most clever hero, but he is present in Frodo’s greatest time of need. It is only through Frodo’s donning of the ‘armor of weakness’ [making himself vulnerable and feeble to his friend] that true fellowship happens.

Instead of becoming weaker when I show my limitations and failure the fellowship around me [wife, family, faith, and friends] is galvanized and I am made stronger. Together a fellowship stands the test of temptation and vice.

Related Links

Catholic Camaraderie—Unity in Suffering

Suffering and Strength

St. Paul explains the meaning of suffering


Become an email subscriber (enter your email address in the Subscribe to Blog Via Email box and hit the Subscribe button. It’s that easy! Soon you will be receiving Catholic content in your inbox.

May God give you strength to endure your current suffering. 🙏


 

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 27

Hope you had a Blessed Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord! 🙏😊 🕊️ 💦

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday.

🩸 🐸  🪲  🪰  🦴  🤕 🔥  🦗 🌑 💀
Amen!
This. Is. The. Truth. 👆
😆😆😆
Plus I would bore them on the history of the Arian crisis. 😆😆😆
Meme credit: @cathoholicism on Instagram.
So true. 🙏
It won’t be too earily of a meeting— hopefully. 😆
🥒🍅🎵🎶
An uplifting message. 🙏

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Advertisements

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 26

Hope you had a Happy New Year! 🙏😊

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday.

My liturgical clock ⏰ is off this year. 🙂😆
Jesus saves!
Busting ☠️💀 🚪 down.
Malchus approves of this meme. 😊👂
Early Christmas marketing be like 👆
Different but still joyous.
I feel convicted by this! 😆🙂
Punny ‘piphany humor. 😆😆😆
😆😆😆
More Epiphany funnies!
💤 😴😆

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!

The Little Way of the Hobbit: Celebrating Tolkien and the Holy Name of Jesus

tolkien birthday gif.gif

January 3rd celebrates two important events: the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and the anniversary of the birth of J.R.R. Tolkien. As a Catholic obvious the former has to take precedence, I mean Jesus is the center of the Catholic faith. However, I think it is ironic, maybe even providential, of the placement of the great English literary figure’s birthday within the season of Christmastide.

Creation Leads to the Creator

The famed creator of Middle Earth himself was a devout Catholic and belief in Jesus Christ permeated his entire life. I admire Tolkien because of his creativity, devotion, and ability to invoke joy into my life simply by reading his works or striking up a conversation with a random stranger about his life!

In An Unexpected Journey? The Case for the Canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien I discuss the reasons for canonizing Tolkien as a saint of the Church.

According to the Baltimore Catechism paragraph 215, Catholics honor saints because

“We honor the saints in heaven because they practiced great virtue when they were on earth, and because in honoring those who are the chosen friends of God we honor God Himself.”

The excitement, peace, and joy I receive when reading, researching, or talking about Middle Earth ultimately is aimed at a higher reality. A deeper reality of full communion with God in Heaven! Tolkien once wrote, “After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’.”

All of creation act as signposts pointing to God’s existence.

The same is true for the hidden or not so hidden Easter-eggs contained in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The date of the formation of the Fellowship—that is, the group of representatives of Middle Earth races—actually is December 25th!

easter christmas.jpg

The Little Way of the Hobbit

Much of Tolkien’s theology, whether he would have wanted to admit it or not, reminds me of the spirituality of The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux. Her path towards holiness consisted of relying on God’s mercy and forgiveness while seeking ordinary daily actions to show love of God and neighbor.

The French saint wrote, “Miss no single opportunity of making small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” Whenever I read and reflect upon that quote I am also reminded of the following words of Tolkien, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

jesus hobbit meme

Fantasy and Tolkien geeks now well that the bearer of the One Ring [the embodiment of temptation] was a hobbit. If only one word would suffice to describe a hobbit to individuals not too aware of this fictional Middle Earth race it would be diminutive. Littleness, at least in appearance, is the chief trait of the heroes of The Lord of the Rings.

Even the smallest person can impact the future

Like St. Therese of Lisieux, Tolkien recognizes that the smallest person can have a great impact on human history. The greatest event in human history is the Incarnation—God being man in the person of Jesus Christ in the form of a little baby.

I honor J.R.R. Tolkien today because his “complex”, extensive, and intricate sub-creation of Middle Earth provokes a sense of joy in the little acts done in great love and sacrifice. Ultimately, after reading any of his works, I am reminded to be grateful for creative genius not as a worship of the fantasy author. Instead, I honor him as he points me to the Real and Truth Author of All of Reality!


“At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” –Philippians 2:10-11

Related Articles

3 Things “The Hobbit of the New Testament” Taught Me

An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to my Spiritual Life

J.R.R. Tolkien: Truth and Myth

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 25

Hope you had a Christmas! 🙏😊

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday.

It’s a beautiful moment.
Dinosaurs 🦖 or #Christmas 🎄?
Amen!
One of the best lines from The Office. 😆😆😆
‘Tis the season for Jesus.
Ancient Jewish bumper stickers.
Waiting…still waiting.
Soooo epic. 🙂
😆😆😆
A belated Advent meme. 🙂
One epic Venn diagram. 😁
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” —1 Corinthians 15:21-22.
Best gift to give is Jesus.
Oh death 💀☠️ where is your sting?

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!

The Simple Catholic’s Second Christmas Card

Happy First Anniversary of the inaugural Chicoine Family Christmas Card!

This year my parents are too tired and busy (it seems like adults are always tired) to pitch in to help. And my siblings get too distracted doing art, playing carwash or swinging around like Spider-Man. It’s up to me (again) to provide an accurate summary of our year.

I’m going to turn three soon and I like to share my wisdom I learned over the past year along with trying to make my boring family seem interesting. We will go in age order (I hear that phrase all the time— especially when it comes to opening presents).

Mommy

This year has been the most challenging year of teaching for mommy. She teaches between two buildings. I don’t know their names because I’m a toddler and get easily distracted (wanders off to leap off the couch with siblings).

Mommy is the best and I love her very much. She helped me get speech and OT therapies. And she lets me eat off her dinner plate! She and daddy talk a lot about the basement (it’s getting finished) and enjoys coffee. I think she needs it to stay awake because my brothers and sister wear her out.

Mommy also loves helping everyone learn and enjoys decorating our new home. She also gives great hugs!

I think mommy’s greatest accomplishment this year is helping me learn this year!

Daddy

Daddy still works evenings. He has to take naps in the morning. I enjoy spending time with daddy because he takes me to the library, watches Blippi with me, and cuddles with me.

I occasionally still try to obtain a sip of his coffee. Daddy doesn’t like this for some reason. Maybe my siblings also wear him out like they make mommy tired. But the times I do get to taste coffee it is awesome!!! I feel so fast and powerful.

Daddy still writes for his blog and includes some of my antics in it. He recently mentioned something about Tea with Tolkien but I don’t know what that means. Maybe he wrote something for them.

Probably the most important of daddy’s accomplishments is giving me horsey rides. It’s fun!

Noah

Noah is in fourth grade at “the school whose name I don’t know” (again because I’m a toddler and get easily distracted with details). He played soccer in the spring and fall. According to my parents, Noah scored his first goal in soccer. I wasn’t there because I was too busy playing with toys at home.

Noah loves Marvel superheroes (we jump around like Spider-Man a lot lately) and loves reading. He also finds long division fun and leads the family in creative play.

I think Noah’s greatest accomplishment this year is rocking my to sleep in the rocking chair. I love my big brother!

Amelia

Amelia is in second grade at “the school whose name I don’t know”. She loves drawing and creating unique things out of paper, cardboard, tape, and other craft supplies. Some of her neatest creations this year were a cardboard platypus and a picture of Wanda (Scarlet Witch). Daddy thought the Wanda drawing was amazing.

Amelia has made a lot of neighborhood friends. (and Noah too). Noah and her learned how to roller blade. I am learning and wear one skate 🛼 to travel in the living room.

My sister is the best because she loves me and helps me get dressed, brushes my hair, and usually lets me play with her toys.

Amelia’s most important accomplishment this year is painting my fingernails. I love my sister!

Josiah

Josiah is a kindergarten at the “school whose name I don’t know”. He is adjusting pretty well to the elementary school life. He has receives speech, OT, and PT therapy at school which help him a lot.

My brother is obsessed with carwashes and garbage trucks. My dad even for a membership to a “carwash whose name I don’t know” (editor’s note: the carwash membership is for Silverstar Car Wash). Josiah plays carwash or garbage truck most days. He sometimes even lets me help him set up the car wash!

Josiah also got to help the garbage truck worker put the can in the back of the truck. He was so excited. He makes me laugh like no one else. My brother is great at distracting my parents so I can achieve my shenanigan quota for the day (some days I worry I won’t hit my goal)..

Josiah’s biggest accomplishment for this year is teaching me how to cut with scissors and helping me draw. I love my other big brother!

Avila Catherine Geraldine

Why do I get my full name displayed? It’s the least I deserve considering I spearheaded my family’s Christmas letter (again).

I don’t go to “school whose name I don’t know” in fact I don’t go to school—yet. Mommy and daddy say I will be going to early childhood starting in January. It will be at a different school that my siblings go to. To avoid confusion I will call it “different school whose name I don’t know”.

This year was one of adventure and growth for me. I learned so many new words and skills. Speech and OT therapies have helped me so much.

I still struggle with the “wigglies” at Mass. My parents have to take me out a decent amount because of how loud my worship is.y reasoning is if Jesus is God and he saved us why not shout it from the pew (I can’t reach a rooftop. Plus my parents stop me even when I stand on a table. They aren’t fun).

Live your life to the fullest. Thank the people who helped you grow and learn. Count your blessings and your stuffed unicorns. And don’t waste time learning the names of schools whose name you don’t know.

Love,

ACGC— Muffin Miscreant, Coffee Culprit, and Adventure Seeker

P.S. Special thanks to my daddy for editing the Chicoine Family Christmas Card. I paid him in hugs.

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 24

Hope you had a Gaudete Sunday! 🙏😊

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday.

A belated Gaudete Sunday meme. 💖💕
Monday Mirth. 🙂
Legitimate debates. 🙂😆
A week I look forward to every year!
But can you really have too much chocolate?
🍫🍫🍫🍫
A feast some get mix up. 🙂😆
Classic Moses and tablet humor.
Best Catholic meme ever!!! 😆😆😆
🎵🎶 The more you know 🎶🎵
More Monday Mirth (and belated Saint Nick’s Day humor). 😆
Hope you have a joyful week. 🙏

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!