Many of my friends are going through some extraordinarily difficult trials at the moment; the kind of situations that reduce articulate prayers to urgent, wordless begging. I feel particularly useless on the other end of our satellite-mediated conversations. These are the kind of blessed people who don’t need to be regaled with a litany of pseudo-spiritual platitudes about trusting God more, or letting go of pride, or learning to look on the bright side of things; they just need to talk, to know they aren’t alone.

When I was in the midst of my own little bout with the acidic fog of depression and loneliness, my mentor weekly exhorted me to two things: to claim the promises of God regardless of whether or not I felt like they could possibly be true, and to be patient. It was good advice, albeit incredibly frustrating at times. Often when he would remind me of those two things I would whine, “But I’ve been patient for weeks! What more does God want from me!” Apparently one does not master the divine art of patience in a month. Go figure.

I’ve been reflecting a bit on the character of patience, especially now that I have more clarity about what God was doing in those three years of struggle. It isn’t much, but I thought I’d share with you the image that has come to define my perception of a patient endurance of suffering:

Keeping my eyes open in the dark. In those moments where it seems as if there is no light at all, when the repeated assurances of the existence of light seem absurd or unhelpful, I have to keep my eyes open. I have to keep looking for that foreign glimmer, fighting against the constant temptation to succumb to weariness, to close my eyes. After all, I sometimes find myself thinking, there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable difference if they’re open or not; the world is still shrouded in an impenetrable night. It’s hard enough to deal with the pain of suffering without having to daily experience the sting of unfulfilled hope.

It’s relentlessly tiring to stay focused, to refuse the urge to sleep, to deny that the darkness could be the totality of things, to believe the light will appear as weeks, months, and years pass without that glorious inbreaking of the sun.

But if I close my eyes, how will I ever see the light when it comes?

To strive for patience is one of the least passive ways to fight against the darkness. Patience is not just a neutral state of inaction as I wait for something to change – that’s apathy. Patience is a fiery rejection of suffering’s power to limit reality. It is a stark and magnificent witness to the hope uniquely found in Christ and his work in history.

My friends are fighting to own that truth, to live in bold expectation that God will make his redemptive power known even as the overwhelming pain demands they forsake that hope and give in to despair. The quality of their convictions and faith is beautiful and challenging to behold. Their decision to be patient, to trust in the midst of suffering, is a profound proclamation of the gospel and a sign that, even now, redemption is real.


12 thoughts on “patience

  1. I’m at a slightly different place in life – on HNGR working in a hospital in West Africa – but one where this message was equally needed. Thank you!

    • This is really incredible!: We are many from different places of the world that can gather together by this means, and support each other and share life.
      The Best for you dear Erin!.
      On Sunday mass I’ll pray for all those who visit “the group of inspiring blogs” and of course for Jordan, Tony, Steve, Kevin, O&G, BP and other brothers that take time to put these encouraging thoughts ïn the air”.

  2. Nice blog! Hope this doesn’t seem glib or insensitive to the difficulty, but reading this post I was reminded of this wonderful encouraging quote I found on another blog:
    “Alone I was without a single friend to give me a word of encouragement, I could neither pray nor read, but there I remained, for hours and hours together, uneasy in mind and afflicted in spirit, on account of the weight of my trouble… and wondering what in the world I could do for my relief.
    Not a gleam of hope seemed to shine upon me from either earth or heaven; except just this:
    that in the midst of all my fears and dangers I never forgot how Our Lord must be seeing the weight of all I endured. Oh my Lord Jesus Christ! What a true friend You are, and how powerful! For when You wish to be with us You can be, and You always do wish it if only we will receive You. May everything created, O Lord of all the world, praise You and bless You! If only I could tramp the whole world over, proclaiming everywhere with all the strength that is in me what a faithful friend You are to those who will be friends with You! My dear Lord, all else fails and passes away; You, the Lord of them all, never fail, never pass away. What You allow those who love You to suffer is all too little. O my Lord, how kindly, how nobly, how tenderly, how sweetly,
    You succeed in handling and making sure of Your own! Oh, if only one could secure that one would love nothing but You alone! You seem, my dear Lord, to put to the trial with rods and agonies one who loves You, only that, just when you have brought her to the last extreme of endurance, she may understand all the more the boundless limits of Your Love.”
    ~ Teresa of Avila, Autobiography, Chapter 25, “The Changeless Friend”

  3. “Patience is not just a neutral state of inaction as I wait for something to change – that’s apathy. Patience is a fiery rejection of suffering’s power to limit reality. It is a stark and magnificent witness to the hope uniquely found in Christ and his work in history.”

    Beautifully put, as is all of this post. Thank you.

  4. I think that a book of life with many authors is being written through this pages, the holy spirit flies among the words, darkness and loneliness are turned into strenght and courage…I never though I would be able to arrive, after many years, to a group of oasis where deep feelings and battles are not only shared but also transformed into inspiration and hope.
    Thank you guys!.

  5. Please, forgive me for so many interventions today.
    A comment on the first paragraph:”…they just need to talk, to know they aren’t alone.” in addition to prayers and to the great support that these blogs give, is there a supplementary way for supporting? Do you think in these cases and even for all of us, sending for example a simple, short, encouraging message would be of use?(if even feasible or appropriate).
    Just perhaps silly thoughts that are coming to my mind.

    • My tendency is to check in on them and just let them know I’m thinking of them and praying. When we talk, I usually just try to describe to them the ways I can see God evident in their lives in the midst of the struggle – detailing how they are proclaiming the Gospel, how they are encouraging me, through their actions. Just, you know, affirming them in their faith.

      I don’t really know, man, it’s always so hard. I’m open to advice!


  6. Yea, I know that feeling. I can definitely think of moments in college where I distinctly heard truth spoken to me, and promptly rejected it for some totally invalid reason or another haha. I wonder in what ways I’ll look back on my life now and think the same thing. Terrifying thought.

    I hope you are well. If you want to chat more, feel free to shoot us an email. If not, then may the peace of God surround you and give you strength as you work through a difficult time.


  7. Well: I think that’s what is needed! And also let them know that a lot of people ünder the surface” is on the same path.
    You both are so commited!: perhaps in a couple of years, with a little more “hard experience in your back (I am not saying this with a disrespectful meaning) you can settle a “support online chat” . Just sharing stupid ideas coming to my mind (and giving the working load to others, haha).
    Thank you!

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