Four key tips to overcoming a long-lasting ordeal

It's possible to get through an ordeal. But what can you do when it takes hold: a long-term illness, bereavement, disability, a family rift? Interviewed for RCF Sanctuaires normands, Father Charles Lenoir, who has himself experienced burn-out, gives us 4 keys to overcoming the ordeal that lasts.

Getting through an ordeal is possible. But what can you do when it takes hold? A long-term illness, bereavement, disability, a family rift for example? In an interview for RCF Sanctuaires normands, Father Charles Lenoir, who experienced burn-out himself, gives us 4 key tips to overcoming a persistent ordeal.

Tip 1: Believe that the Lord is at your side

Whatever the ordeal, we always need to find someone to blame – and even more so when it endures. As psychology teaches us, a clearly identified stage in the grieving process is rebellion. It is normal, because rebelling against fate and hardship is a human reaction. But then you have to make sense of the ordeal. And that’s where faith comes in: “I want to believe that the Lord is at my side and that He knows what suffering is.” Indeed, he died on the cross in horrible suffering and forsaken by all. He was acquainted with suffering, nevertheless he rose from the dead three days later. So he shows that every ordeal we go through with Him leads to resurrection, which is a path to life.

Key 2 : letting go

The challenge is about letting go. Indeed, that’s the hardest part, because it is not our plan, so we are relunctant. When letting go, we realize that the Lord is there one way or another, often unpredictably, though present in any case.

One difficulty is that we no longer recognize ourselves. Suffering has changed us and we no longer have a point of support. We would like to know where our good lies in order to control it, but we have to let the Lord do it, and believe. No one can force us to do so. It’s our personal decision, our freedom to believe that the Lord will be there and do something.

And it does, provided we have faith. This has nothing to do with self-persuasion. Indeed, trying to persuade yourself that things will get better is a monologue, whereas the act of faith is a dialogue with Someone. Believing that God loves me partakes of a personal decision. The act of trust involves a two-way conversation.

It can feel like God is absent, or there are moments of darkness, but I’ve noticed that this doesn’t last very long. As I was counselling people who were going through overwhelming trials, I saw that some inner strength enabled them to hold on. Of course, the devil would have us believe that what we’re going through doesn’t make sense and that we will never get out of it. But at the heart of the ordeal, God is there, helping us. In the thick of it, He comes to the poor, the little ones, the weak, those crushed by suffering, as long as we allow Him and accept that we no longer control our destiny. And then paths open up.

Key 3: Let the Lord do what He will, like a child

As you’re going through an ordeal, especially an illness, you often get discouraged when you find that your condition does not improve. I experienced burnout myself and that was quite painful. In fact, I had built up a harworking personality, and was always ready to help. But when you’re on the side of the road, you have no energy left. After a year, I thought it was about to pick up but my depression lasted quite a long time.

Ultimately, I realized that if this ordeal had been shorter, I would not have changed. I have learned to let the Lord do things for me, to be His child, to stop doing things on my own, and I am thankful to Him. Burnout has taught me the meaning of my life, which is to be a child of God. He looks after me.

I will give an example which all moms should find telling. When you had your first baby, and then all the others, remember the time you spent looking at her in her cradle. The only thing she did was sleeping. And yet, you were perfectly satisfied. Well, this is how the Lord works with us: the mere fact that we exist fulfills Him.

Key 4: Gaze at Jesus

Look at Jesus on the Cross. He knows what suffering is, and he has made it a passage to the Resurrection. If you suffer with Christ, He will use your suffering for the good. How? This we cannot tell.

I like this quote by Paul Claudel:

God did not come to explain suffering. He came to inhabit it with His presence.”

To help someone in need, entrust them to the prayers of the Montligeon Fraternity!

How can you help someone overcome their ordeal?

I think the first thing to do is to listen and keep quiet. Above all, don’t tell the person what to do, don’t give advice. Taking burn-out as an example, there’s nothing worse than people who, although they know nothing about it, tell you to shake things up, to make an effort when you’re incapable of doing so. As a matter of fact, the spring of willpower is broken. So the first thing to do is to listen and give the person an opportunity to express their suffering. And I’ve often found that just being able to tell your suffering to someone who doesn’t judge you or tries to give you a solution feels good and soothing.

One day, I went to a hospital to visit someone I knew well. When I went into her room, I saw that she was very tired and offered to come back when she would feel better. She replied: “Please, stay! Your presence does me good.” So I sat down on the bed. We didn’t say anything to each other, I just stayed.

This program was produced for RCF Sanctuaires normands. Available every Tuesday on RCF at 7.15 pm.

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