It is no secret that I am a religious person. I have a bachelor’s degree in theology from Gannon University, am a cradle Catholic (Catholic from birth), and currently work as the Youth Minister at my parish. However, it would be foolish to say that I have never had my faith tested. Here is the important thing though, I now find fortitude in my faith and leaned into Christ when I am suffering and questioning.
The definition of fortitude according to the good old fashion Google search and English dictionary is “courage in pain and adversity”. Fortitude is also a gift of the Holy Spirit and very essential to the Christian faith. Fortitude in faith can be seen throughout all of Holy Scripture. For example Jesus of Nazareth spreading the word of God in the face of opposition from His own people. David, someone much smaller that Goliath, refusing to back down from the challenge. And the best example, the entire book of Job from the Old Testament.
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”Job 42: 2-3
The quote above is a verse from the book of Job after God reprimands Job for questioning Him. Job asserts that he does not deserve the suffering that has befallen him. Job is a faithful servant of God, whom God tests by allowing Job to suffer. Throughout the entire story, Job constantly begs the question “why me?” He never receives a particularly satisfying answer.
God makes the statement that Job, a meer human being is not God and cannot understand the mystery of suffering. God then asks Job to continue to trust in God’s plan. How condescending of an answer; That’s certainly how I precieved God’s response when first reading the book of Job, even if it’s true! But what if God was trying to coax Job into asking a different question of Him.
Like I said, in the greater context of the book, Job is constantly asking “why me?” And God responds that Job is unable to comprehend, but to continue to trust in Him. What God is asking Job to do, is to ask God a different question! Instead of “Why me?” Job should ask “What do you want me to do?”, “What next?”
God acknowledges our suffering, so much so that the Father sent His Son to die for our sins. God suffers with us, but in that suffering he wants us to trust Him, to ask Him how we move forward in our lives and continue his will. The “what next?” of it all. I have held on to this notion for many years, and it continues to fuel my faith, and gives me fortitude when I need it most.
Growing up I had a really difficult time with my health. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of nine and continued to struggle with the disease for the rest of my schooling. To put it into perspective, I missed 57 days of school when I was in 7th Grade and 76 days in 9th. Throughout those formative years, I too was like Job. I was angry and losing faith. I even went so far as to ask the question out loud “why me?” Unlike Job, I never got a reply. It wasn’t until I transferred to Mercyhurst Prep and had an amazing theology teacher that I finally started to ask the second question, “What next?”
My theology teacher for 10th and 11th grade really pushed the boundaries in the classroom, challenging his students’ perceptions about life and asked them to deep dive into their beliefs. He made us look at what our core values were and what drove them. One of my drivers was this notion of suffering. I really dove into the topic then, because like Job, I yearned to be close to and love God. It was then I found fortitude in my faith and had the nerve to ask “What next” instead of “why me?” Since this realization and personal interpretation of Job, I have held fast to my faith and believe in God’s plan when I am struggling the most.
I pray that this may touch some of your hearts and help you find fortitude when you feel the weakest.
Peace, love, and my prayers for you,
The Soaring Magpie
“In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”Saint Teresa Of Avila