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Michelle Hamel shares some strategies for entering into Lent when you're already in a season of suffering.

I'm having a really hard time "getting into" Lent this year. Despite continuing to pray about it over the last couple of weeks, I have no real inspiration about what to do for Lent. If I'm being honest, I'm just so tired. I feel like I've already been living Lent since mid-December, when our family started experiencing a revolving door of illnesses, our oldest daughter was physically and emotionally harmed during a scheduled medical procedure that went wrong, and some school struggles with a couple of our children emerged.   

Starting actual Lent feels more like "Second Lent" and I can't seem to muster any enthusiasm at all for it. Praying about it over the last few weeks has only led me to one choice: I want to give up trauma for Lent. (If only it was that easy!) 

When you've been living in survival mode for a while, it's a lot of effort just to stay in the present moment and do the next right thing while trusting that God will lead us down the right path and bring good out of the suffering. While I know that God never leaves me or forsakes me in the hard moments of life (see Deuteronomy 3:18), He can be hard to feel or see in hard seasons. In my floundering to make a plan for Lent, I've been asking myself where Jesus has met me recently.

To find the answer to that question, I've had to turn to my journal. Since my mind and memory are not fully functioning in survival mode, I'm grateful to myself that I've spent time journaling over the past several weeks when I've felt something that I've heard or read touch my heart in order to go back to it. Otherwise, there is no way I would remember any of it! 




I have listened to several good podcasts in the last few weeks on suffering that have resonated with me, brought me a lot of comfort, and given me lots to ponder. The Abiding Together Podcast Season 14 Episode 2, "Living in the Tension: Joy and Sorrow" was a great one! It actually took me several days to listen to because I needed to give it my full attention and not just have it on in the background while I did dishes or laundry, which is my usual routine. I can't share everything I wrote because it took up several journal pages(!), but I can share a couple of things that struck me.  

In that episode, Heather Khym shared,

The flip side to leaning into the greatest suffering is the greatest joy when it’s resurrected.


Another quote that struck me came from co-host Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT:

We have to accept the fragments God sends us everyday. Looking for a Magic bullet to fix us so we won’t hurt anymore can become an idol.


Co-host Michelle Benzinger shared:

Even when her[Mary's] heart was breaking, she didn't doubt the goodness of God. Even when her heart was breaking, she allowed her heart to stay open and not close it.  


Just those three quotes alone could each be the focus of their own article. They speak of hope, living in the moment, and trusting in God and His plan, even when we don’t understand it.  

Meditating on Mary's suffering as her heart was breaking as a mother has been a source of consolation for me as well. Mary leaned into God, not away from Him. She trusted His plan and path even though it was immensely painful. Despite her pain, Mary still stood at the foot of her Son's cross. She still laid Him in the tomb. She still walked away without her Son, trusting and waiting on God to bring good out of all the suffering, even though she didn't know exactly what it would look like. Throughout it all, she never lost hope.  




Click to tweet:
Maybe surrendering and abiding is the Lenten journey I’m being led on. #CatholicMom


Maybe it’s enough this Lent to lean into God with an open heart and work on trusting Him on this path He has me on. Maybe just focusing on the “fragments” that He sends me each day and working on having hope about how He will multiply those fragments in my life is enough of a sacrifice for this year. Maybe God isn’t asking me for a long list of things I will add for Lent and a long list of things I will take away for Lent this year. Maybe surrendering and abiding is the Lenten journey I’m being led on.  

Lent is about growing in intimacy with God … and there are an unlimited number of ways that He can inspire us to come closer to Him this Lent. Wherever you find yourself this Lent, let’s lean into Him, abide with Him, and be open to seeing where He wants us to focus on this Lenten journey. 

(Author's note: If you are in a hard place this Lent, the Hope for Right Now podcast has been another consoling and thought-provoking podcast for me. Especially Episode 5: He Brings Hope to What’s Dead.)



Copyright 2024 Michelle Hamel
Images: Canva