How to survive what seems to be lots of bad news and stay sane and reasonably at peace
December 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The most common question we are asked when we personally meet LifeSite readers is, “How do you keep doing what you do every day?” The question is asked emphatically, with marvel, and a strange look in the eye of the person making the comment. They might as well be asking, “Are you crazy or what?”
The obvious reason the question is asked is because they can’t see themselves enduring daily, month after month, year after year, the task of reporting on so many difficult and disturbing developments (even though we also report much good, inspiring news) and enduring all the flak that comes after the reports are published. The implication is that they would go crazy, or get totally stressed out or depressed.
From daily news subscribers, a frequent comment, which is often not a criticism, is that they can’t cope anymore with reading LifeSiteNews and they have to unsubscribe or not read the news at night before going to bed. For many, it is often too emotionally draining and anxiety producing.
We understand. However, interestingly enough, most of them seem to eventually come back because of the quality and importance of our reports. They find they can’t get such consistently reliable reports elsewhere on the issues they most care about.
Michael O’Brien, during his comments at the beginning of LifeSite’s 15th anniversary gala in Washington, D.C., stated about reading LifeSiteNews reports, “My temperament, being of the melancholic Irish sort … tends to say, (he then put his face down into his hands) ‘Oh, I don’t think I can read everything on LifeSite today’.”
Everyone laughed. We all understood only too well. That was three and a half years ago.
Although I admit it is indeed increasingly stressful and often seems humanly impossible to do this unique work for God, there are reasons why most of us have been able to persevere and reasons why a good number of our readers are able to continue reading and using our reports.
Let me tell you the how and why.
"Would it help?"
Highly recommended is seeing the recent movie, Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks plays the role of the American lawyer assigned to defend a Russian spy caught in this true, cold war drama. A number of times in the movie the spy responds to questions about circumstances threatening him by stating an exceptionally wise phrase.
At their first meeting, the lawyer asks the spy why he does not seem to be upset that he will likely be executed after the trial. The calm Russian responds in a sincerely questioning manner – “would it help?”
Bling! The light went on in many viewers' brains. Yes, what help would it have been for him to get all fearful and anxious? It would achieve nothing and only harm him. Great anxiety would prevent him from thinking clearly and living the best that he can with the time left to him.
So I often ask myself now when I get anxious and upset (and unfortunately I still do), “would it help?” Amazingly, every single time, the obvious answer is, no, it does not help at all. It is self-defeating to respond to difficulties with those draining emotions that hurt me and those around me.
In our home, some of us have recently been saying that phrase to each other, reminding ourselves of its wisdom. Among staff, some of us are reminding ourselves of the same.
Our current fundraising campaign is going badly so far. “Would it help” if we got all stressed out and fearful. Nope. Not at all. We need our wits about us, not choking fears and anxiety, to finds ways to hopefully resolve this dilemma. However, we do have to relate our concerns to our readers so they will understand the situation we are currently in. Then we leave it up to them and God.
The need for a daily prayer life
But let’s get deeper into what has maintained us for all the years of LifeSite’s existence.
First of all, we have learned that we must all pray. In the past couple of years LifeSite staff have been praying more than ever. We also often ask others to pray for us. Prayer calms the mind and opens the heart and mind to inspiration.
Every morning we start the day with a staff prayer conference call. Without the sustenance of that on-going relationship with God, we could never survive this daily grind of confronting many of the world’s greatest evils head on.
Prayer helps us to realize that the outcome of all of our work is ultimately always up to God, and not our skills and efforts.
We are not in charge. Failure and success are not terms we should often use. We just have to be certain that we are always faithful and that we are doing our best. The battle on the issues we focus on is God’s battle, not ours. But, we are nevertheless obliged to put our whole heart and soul into this special work on the most important issues in the world.
Michael O’Brien, in his talk last March in Fort Worth, Texas, summed up this crucial lesson up when he stated,
“The deeper work that God does in all of us, regardless of our circumstances in life, is to take us to a more profound level of dependence on him. It can lead us to a condition of spiritual childhood, to become very little and trusting in God's hands, to do our part and to let him do the rest.”
He went on,
“We cannot measure — this we must keep in mind always — we cannot measure what the success or failure of our efforts is. It is not our task to measure them. That is God's business.”
I have found over the years that those who often have the most difficulty enduring pro-life, pro-family work are professionals, or control types, who are used to getting good results from usual business planning and precise efforts implementing those plans. In their professional practice this has most often achieved good results. They were usually in control.
However, in this work, many of the techniques of the business or professional world just don’t work the same. We are opposed by Powers and Principalities that manifest themselves in many ways, such as unexplainable equipment and Internet failures, sudden sickness among staff and their families, service provider breakdowns, serious miscommunications and much more. We have experienced some days and even weeks that defy any rational explanation.
We are also daily confronted with deceptions, outright lies, manipulations and shocking corruption or weakness of influential persons and institutions, including clergy at all levels, law enforcement, court and legislative authorities. This causes the professional control persons severe bewilderment. They usually don’t last long and sometimes not even a few weeks.
But they do last if they have a strong spiritual life. Then one learns to accept wherever things take him/her and to go with God's inspirations and plans, rather than on our own, humanly limited strategies.
Learning to trust "absolutely"
Now let’s go to another significant and necessary understanding of how to cope with developments or personal failings that could cause fear, anxiety and inner meltdown.
In his book, the Second Greatest Story Ever Told, Fr. Michael E. Gaitley writes,
“the sin of Adam was necessary” to bring us our “great”, “glorious” redeemer, Jesus Christ. “The sin is called ‘O happy fault’. And its evil is ‘destroyed completely’ by the Savior. This is the wonder of wonders of Divine Mercy. It has the power not only to bring good out of evil but an even greater good….Truly, as St. Paul says, ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’ (Rom 5:24)
This is absolutely crucial - ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’
Fr, .Gaitley qualifies this however, in stating,
“Of course, as St. Paul explains, this does not mean that we “continue in sin that grace can abound.” By no means! But it does reveal an amazing secret of Divine Mercy, something that proves God’s ways are not our ways. After all, how, in human terms, can loss be gain? Yet in the realm of Divine Mercy, it can be so.…if we repent and trust in the power of God’s mercy, then nothing is lost when he brings an even greater good out of our evil.”
“Our evil” might simply be not trusting in God for everything.
Recently, we have been reporting especially alarming developments about Planned Parenthood, the Obama administration’s assault on religious freedom and conscience rights, the advance of euthanasia, hateful, oppressive actions by gay rights activists and an alarming rise in influence of the anti-people, freedom threatening climate change movement.
Most disturbing of all to our readers is the increased confusion and high level efforts to change traditions and seemingly even doctrines related to core moral beliefs in the Catholic Church.
The temptation to discouragement is now greater than at any time that I can recall since we started LifeSite.
Remember, ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’ That is, no matter how dark things seem and maybe are, the reality is that the power of God’s grace is ALWAYS greater. He is always in total control.
The defeat of evil is always certain, although in the interim we may have to endure great hardships and suffering while God’s plan of creating great good from these trials continues and eventually concludes. We can be certain that there is such a plan for everything that happens, and that our prayers and fidelity in life are heard by God and can have an effective role in limiting the suffering and advancing the good.
Evil is not only eventually defeated, but the end result is that God takes that evil and transforms it into an even greater good than before the evil occurred. That is, the greater the evil is, the greater will be the later miracles of God’s grace in response. We know that. We are sure of that. This pattern has been occurring throughout history.
Michael O’Brien reminds us,
“It was a very important lesson for me, looking back in hindsight, to see that we must never lose hope, and that if we are given a particular grace or calling, we must be willing to persist through, at times, very dark waters, understanding that there will come temptation for false relief from trials.”
The temptation of lukewarmness
There is another temptation I have too often seen people give in to. That is, in response to disturbing developments, many take the road of generally ignoring the evils or trials sent to them, ridiculing or reviling the messengers and rejecting their obligations. They turn to a comfortable, don’t rock the boat and don’t upset my life response of looking after themselves. It is a great temptation, and a deadly one – this lukewarmness, if not cold-heartedness.
“Some temptations are obvious. But there will come an alternative kind of temptation—to simply pursue a good life, a good faithful Catholic life, but to leave unfulfilled the particular calling and path that God has given you. Technically, no sins have been committed, but something is lost, some fruitfulness for souls is lost to the world.
Our task is to be faithful to the inspirations, guided by reason and discernment always, but at the core is going forth in the face of the culture of death, in a dark time, with the light of Christ within us, in Christian hope. That willingness, the Lord can work with. That, the Lord can make fruitful, if we would only trust. I'm not talking about feelings of trust. Feelings of trust come and go. But the choice to trust, to put one step in front of another, as we cross the desert of the modern age. There, in the desert, many surprises await us. Scripture says the Lord is a God of surprises. And he certainly has been so in my life.
Anyway, I could go on and on and on. I would say, above all else, we must trust in the Lord in all circumstances. Trust in him absolutely.”
Remember, “would it help?”, and "trust in Him absolutely."
This is how we survive at LifeSite, stay reasonably sane and how we continue to grow to be able to endure exposure to even greater disturbances with a relatively peaceful disposition. Mind you, it is an up and down process for most of us. I have good and bad days, but the growth in the good, the ability to endure what was previously unendurable and to still laugh and enjoy life and family continues and is a wonder.
It is a wonder of God’s grace. He gives what we need, if we continue to always ask and then trust.
Nothing is worth losing our peace for an extended time. “Would it help?”
It is useless to be down on ourselves for our natural, human weaknesses or personal failings as long as we are making our best efforts. “Would it help?”
There are also other things that we should do such as regular exercise, quiet down times, getting out into nature and time for just plain enjoyment with others.
I hope that this article will prove to have been helpful to those who have read it and help them to continue to be able to receive the useful knowledge and other benefits provided through LifeSite reporting.
The purpose of LifeSite is to change the culture, especially through those who are empowered by the information in our reports.
We research, write and publish the stories. Our readers are the ones who actually cause the culture changes to happen. And they have been amazing in doing so.