We often are aware and accept life’s countless shares of difficulties and trials. To these, we simply shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s life! There isn’t much that we can really do about it!”
But our tone and attitude change when these burdens and challenges hit us head on. Suddenly it’s, “Why me?!?” or “Why us, Lord?!?” These are the complaints of many in emergency rooms, funeral homes, in children or parent rifts, business bankruptcies and many more.
The question of why God allows bad things to happen is a mystery that’s been around since Adam and Eve. It is only when God Himself, through our Lord Jesus Christ, takes on our sufferings and dies upon the Cross in order to redeem us that the darkness of human problems and ordeals is gradually dispelled by the light of the Cross.
Still, this does not prevent us ⏤ human as God knows we are ⏤ from airing our grievances to the heavens: asking for deliverance, protection, good health and more. Often, the answer to what our limited human perception seeks, is returned with a deep silence.
Perhaps, among these trials, family issues are the most difficult to understand, accept, and solve. Financial setbacks will somehow be resolved, but the cycle of life ending with death is something we cannot change, as with other similar realities. On the other hand, cases like having an unfaithful spouse, a wayward son or daughter, or a relative who maligns us belong to a different trial category.
How are we to embrace and accept family problems so that they may strengthen our human character and spiritual growth?
The path marked out for us by the examples of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph may afford some insights. I believe meditating on their lives ⏤ during and even after our ordeals ⏤ may help us hurdle trials with graceful serenity and joy!
The life of the Holy Family can be grouped into three enlightening episodes: 1) Mary and Joseph’s betrothal-calling, 2) Jesus’ birth, and 3) Jesus getting lost and being found in the Temple. Here are some points to draw from them:
On spousal issues: A man and a woman do not sign up for marriage. They are called (to a vocation) by God to Himself through someone. Mary and Joseph may have answered their calling, but it didn’t mean that they were spared from difficulties in order to faithfully do God’s will. (Cf. Mt. 9:27-31; Lk. 1:26-38).
Parents who experience marital difficulties must realize that in order to sincerely address their misunderstandings, they must first face whatever inner conflict they may have with God. These are not necessarily sinful issues, but it may be that one is forgetting to love and serve the one’s spouse more. If like Mary and Joseph, each spouse tackles how God wants to transform them, then their sincere conversion will in turn help them to engage difficult marital concerns.
On material issues: The birth of Jesus is enormously embraced by poverty and humility. Mary and Joseph found themselves with literally no human means to provide for the greatest gift of God to humanity. And yet, the absence of such material security was overwhelmed by the securing presence of Grace in Jesus. (Cf. Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 2:1-7)
Material needs (e.g. daily sustenance, material maintenance, children’s education, etc.) will always be an important issue. But parents, seeing the example of Mary and Joseph, ought to learn how not to be too attached to material wants that can easily distract them from the real needs of the family. Sometimes, these needs do not require any monetary expense since they come in one’s presence, affection, gratitude, and forgiveness. These valuable immaterial realities are what Bethlehem teaches us constantly.
On children issues: The growth and development of children will always have challenges. Mary and Joseph experienced this even though the Child’s being lost was not out of Jesus’ disobedience or his parent’s neglect. It is a portrait revealing that we must learn to see our children’s imperfections as a space for affection, patience, fortitude, and forgiveness. (Cf. Lk. 2:41-50)
There are no perfect children. Thus, a parent’s role will never end. They are always there, not as stage parents, but as human and spiritual support for their children. They continue to be moral standards that ought to help any wayward son or daughter to never lose hope if they ever find themselves lost in the tempests of the world’s hedonistic seas.The lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph will always be a beacon of hope, peace, and joy for any parent confronts the many issues of his or her family, as it journeys towards the heavenly home. (Fr. Francis Ongkinco)