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Turning to God during Times of Crisis

By Maggie Augustyn, a parishioner at St. Pius X, Lombard / Photo by: Joseph Sabia | August 2020

Turning to God During Times of Crisis

Our faith falters. Our faith is tested. We are tested. And many of those tests are difficult. They are demanding and challenging. We often think that we may fail the tests, but the truth is that no test is worthless, and no test is wasted. With each test, whether we think we pass it or not, we gain strength. I have recently discovered that many of those tests are in place to push us towards a journey with His presence.

My ultimate test came about two years ago. Completely blindsided, I received a phone call that “yes, in fact, it [was] cancer.” I remember that moment distinctly. The shock of the news took my breath away, a punch to the gut. My world was shattered. With one big swoop, everything I had known came to a halt. The world stopped spinning. I opened my mouth, but no words came out. I began crying, as quietly as I could, so the oncologist wouldn’t hear me. I got weak, I had to sit down.

Thankfully, my daughter wasn’t home. I wouldn’t have wanted her to see me so broken. I put the oncologist on speaker and began madly texting my husband. “It’s cancer,” I wrote.  He didn’t respond. Meeting. He must be in a meeting. What news to get while you’re in a meeting.

The moments following that phone call, I seem to remember in slow motion. I blinked several times… slowly… I couldn’t get up… and I had stopped crying… I didn’t think it hit me yet. Everyone was expecting some news, and so before I even followed up with my husband, I called my parents. That was the most difficult moment of my life. Their sense of suffering on the other line was palpable; a child should never have to tell their parents of a near- terminal diagnosis.

The kind of despair that sets in after news like that spills into every part of your life. A darkness sets in, within your soul, and it prevents you from even smiling. There is pause but also lack of peace. The restlessness and fear are unparalleled. Every moment you’re in limbo between finding yourself completing simple tasks, such as showering and doing dishes, and being utterly broken. Many times, I physically fell down to my knees. Continuous questions and constant bargaining are the norm. Why me. Why me? Why me! What did I do to deserve this? Those thoughts cloud your every moment, and they are exhausting.

The days following the surgery were the worst I’d ever known. I remember waking up and wanting to give up. I remember crying and screaming in the bathroom for hours. I screamed so hard, my sutures from the surgery hurt. I was ashamed and embarrassed that, at 42, I didn’t have my act together; that, at 42, I didn’t know how to handle this. I’d never been so angry before. The anger made me reconsider my relationship with God. Over and over in my mind I wondered: Why me. Why me? Why me! Why did He do this to me? I wanted nothing to do with Him. I didn’t pray. In many moments, He meant nothing to me. I closed myself off from Him, His love and His presence.

As days following the surgery went by, more fear set it. The anger exhausted me. I needed to find a way to feel peace again. I couldn’t sleep. I felt abandoned. I felt so much suffering, day in and day out, that I would wake up with more torment. I was arrogant to think that I had suffered more than He. But I didn’t realize that until Easter, four months after my surgery. On Good Friday, things began to turn around. I was reminded of His suffering on the Cross. He suffered, so I wouldn’t have to.

It finally clicked. I was no longer suffering. The surgery was over. I was back at work. I was grateful to be alive. I was still in pain, but I was spared. And it started to make sense. I finally began to feel peace. I was finally gaining hope. I finally was able to feel His love. I began to grow closer to Him. I began to understand, at least, part of His plan.

One night I began wondering, “Who in this world loved me?” And, in that moment, I began to feel, once again, my connection to Him. He loved me. He spared me. Every night, as I closed my eyes, I was reunited with Him. I was overwhelmed by His love, by His gift, by His attention. I no longer had to force love. I no longer wondered if I was loved. I felt loved, unconditionally. The fear I had once felt had completely dissipated. As I laid in bed, thoughts and images came over me. Darkness set in, but not the scary kind. The calming kind. I gave myself to Him. I allowed myself to be vulnerable in feeling His love. I was open to living a life He would choose for me.

“I’m yours to do with me as you please,” I said to Him. Images I hadn’t known before took over. I was laying in the palm of His hand. I was cared for. I was safe. I was His. And every time, since that Easter, when I have felt fear or despair, all I’ve needed to do was to feel the palm of His hand; all I’ve needed to do was to give myself to Him, and I was free of worry and fear.

Today, I am living days full of life and laughter. My life changed completely following cancer. As awful as it sounds, cancer was the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. I have opened myself to believing that perhaps my having cancer was a gift which brought me to living my best life. Perhaps cancer was a gift that’s brought me closer to Him. Cancer brought me to my knees. It made me question my existence. It made me question His presence. In the end, it strengthened my purpose, and, most importantly, it strengthened His purpose in my life. Today, I show up to live my best life. I have come to realize that I needed to live with gratitude, and I needed to show Him gratitude. He gave me freedom. He keeps me safe, and most of all He loves me.

As life would have it, nothing remains fixed for long; faith tends to falter and continues to be tested. That time came very recently, not just for me, but for all of us during the COVID-19 shutdown, which presented us with a chance to conjure up the faith we’ve had at our lowest. Ideally, you’ve either been prepared and fortified in faith to face COVID-19, or your faith will grow as you turn to Him for strength. The coronavirus has been, and continues to be, a time to trust in our Higher Power. For me, with the knowledge I had gained during my cancer fight, I knew that COVID-19 was an opportunity within the struggle to find a gift. Since the pandemic started, night after night, I found the time to thank Him for allowing me to look for the good, for allowing me to find what mattered in my life. And I continued to engage in prayer each night, laying in the cozy and comfortable palm of His hand. Because, no matter what life brings next, with its fluid nature, I will never unlearn and forget what He had taught me amidst cancer.

In the end, we are human. We sin. We doubt. We are arrogant in thinking that we know better. We consider and pay attention to the wrong things — to materialistic things, to things that don’t matter, things that don’t matter to Him. And sometimes it takes our hardest moments to bring attention to the right things. My life is forever changed. I’m ready for good and bad. I know I have strength to take on whatever life brings me because I have His love in my life, and it’s unfaltering. I have been searching for a way to give Him thanks, and, thus, one day, having looked in my spare nightstand drawer, I found in the back of it my grandmother’s rosary. I held it and wept. My gift to You, I thought, is to pray each day the rosary my grandmother left me.