Each time we attend Mass, at the outset of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest-celebrant enjoins us to lift up our hearts, and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord!” Our intention is to unite and raise our hearts as a congregation preparing to celebrate the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice.
What about all those private times in our lives, however, when – if we can manage to lift up our hearts at all at that point in the Mass – we surely can’t lift them very high?
Sometimes we feel unbearably sad and burdened. Bad things really do happen at times, no matter how good we try to be. Sorrow, grief, worry, and anxiety are universal aspects of the human condition. They have no respect for age, gender, or any of the other categories by which we human beings classify ourselves. If we are human, we will weep, worry, and hurt.
The good news is that the human condition also allows for us to share our burdens with one another. A sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on, a kind hand to hold – these have the power to bind us together as a community of concern helping each other through the tough times.
What if it is impossible, though, to reach out to others for advice and support in a time of sorrow or personal struggle? A person may be extremely private by nature and would find it prohibitively distasteful to confide in another. The deeply personal nature of the concern may not lend itself to discussion, even with the most trusted confidante. In some cases, a person’s reputation may be at stake. There even may be times when baring the soul could jeopardize oneself or another physically, spiritually, or otherwise.
Whatever the reason, bearing a burden on our own can make us feel terribly alone and isolated. Things may work themselves out in time, it’s true, but a particularly thorny problem can hold a person long-term on a lonely road.
When we feel we have no one to turn to, we can try one or more of the following:
~Keep a journal
Even for people who have never kept a diary or written on a regular basis, setting down one’s thoughts on paper is a way of releasing them safely and confidentially. We needn’t ever read back over what we write, but if we do, we may be surprised at the perspective we can gain, in even just a few days’ time. Also, it is helpful to be able to do something, even as ordinary as writing, for a small measure of control over a situation that otherwise may be out of our hands.
~Research the Church’s position on the matter causing concern
Our Church is always there to guide us, even through the murkiest of waters. There is no aspect of life outside the realm of her concern. We need not wander aimlessly, left to our own devices. Today, the Internet makes it easy to research the Church’s teaching on any given subject. It can be comforting to know that there is a solid foundation of authority and principle underlying her position. The insights gained can be a source of wisdom, right thinking, and clear judgment.
~Go to Confession
Confession is greatly underutilized today, but frequent reception of the sacrament can have powerful effects besides absolution from sin. Confessors can provide counsel of a practical as well as a spiritual nature, with the assurance of confidentiality. Also, we shouldn’t forget the sanctifying and actual graces that result from the sacrament – exactly what we need when struggling under a burden which we believe we must shoulder alone. The fact is that we are not alone. Jesus is waiting there, in the confessional, to strengthen us with His grace in times of trouble through the ministration of His priest.
~Don’t hesitate to ask for prayer support
Prayers can be solicited without going into detail about the nature of the problem – we simply request prayer for a special intention. Most people would be willing to intercede on our behalf if we only ask, and we should remember not to limit prayer requests to adults. God hears the prayers of children with an especially loving, attentive ear, and little ones respond generously to a sincere request for prayer.
~Pray, pray, pray
God has heard it all. No matter how difficult, distasteful, hurtful, or even shocking our particular burden may be, it will not be news to Him. No one knows the human heart better than its Creator; we do well to remember that we can open that heart to Him freely. The Lord will always listen and understand. His is the most sympathetic ear, the strongest shoulder, the kindest hand. He will walk the journey with us if we only ask.
A time of personal trial can become not only more bearable but also filled with grace, pulling us ever closer to Our Lord. During those times when we feel most alone, our private sorrows need not be kept totally to ourselves. Then, even when our hearts are heavily burdened, we will be able to respond with great confidence born of faith, “We lift them up to the Lord!”
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