How I Found Joy in the Struggle

This author's coffee mug, one of her reminders of how she gets through hard times, has 'Offer It Up' painted on the side.

I have never been a morning person.

In fact, I hate mornings. Adulthood may have forced me to embrace them a little more, but they are painful for me.

And people who have to interact with me in the mornings (in the past: parents, siblings, roommates; now: husband and coworkers) probably hate my pre-9 a.m. self, too. I am far from the best version of myself.

Then, one day, a coffee cup and its challenging message changed my whole approach.

One thing I think all non-morning people love? Coffee.

It’s the soothing remedy to the dreaded morning. But what I found to be an even more powerful way to deal with my morning discomfort is something that sounds like it would be the complete opposite: Offer it up.

I’m not sure if the concept of offering up your suffering to God is a uniquely Catholic concept, but it is one that I have always associated with my Catholic faith. I was fascinated by the practice of hair shirts as a kid and other things that the spiritual masters did.

In Lent, especially, Catholics undergo various forms of suffering while we fast. (My husband thinks fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is actual torture.)

But ‘offering it up’ isn’t about dwelling in your suffering at all.

My friend, Mary, and I recently had a conversation about the ‘offer it up’ concept. She reminded me that this isn’t advice to ignore a problem, even if it’s from self-imposed fasting.

“The true spirit of it is when you’re facing your own humanity in a situation and you realize that you can push through it — and push through it with joy,” Mary shared.

To “offer it up” doesn’t mean to accept your situation without working toward improvement.

If I let myself be grumpy in the morning or when I’m having a bad day, I actually pass my suffering onto other people. Negativity is contagious, and it’s all-too-easy for one person to bring down another (or a group).

When I drink my coffee and remember to offer it up, it is the help I need to bring joy to others — even while I am suffering in a (small) way.

I am giving up my self-pity, angst, and frustration, and giving myself the opportunity and motivation to get better.

‘Offer it up’ is an invitation to work through our sufferings with joy. It is the ultimate hopeful reminder that our suffering is not worthless.

All Catholics are called to pray in sacrifice, even sacrificing ourselves at times. The Mass is a sacrifice, giving sweets up for Lent is a sacrifice, and pushing myself toward positivity in the mornings is even a sacrifice.

Christ took on the greatest suffering of all by dying for us on the cross. And by doing so, He gave us the gift of hope for eternal life.

When we accept our sufferings — large and small — we are united in that greatest act of love.

It may seem foolish to compare drinking my morning coffee to Christ suffering on the cross. But the spiritual life is a journey.

Working on this morning habit is one step along that journey — that gave me a new perspective on much bigger steps like fasting during Lent or accepting a larger cross like depression.

So whether you’re giving up sweets for Lent or you’re dealing with a major crisis in your life right now, don’t be afraid to offer it up to God. Cherish the hope that we have, and let it be your light to a better day.

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