“You can do hard things.”
The text flashed on my phone, the words precisely what I needed to see at that moment.
I was sitting on the bathroom floor in my grandfather’s house. I’d been crying. Overwhelmed by the circumstances, I was unable to keep it together any longer, and the tears flowed. I was nine months pregnant.
We were evacuated from our home due to Category 4 Hurricane Laura and still didn’t know if our house had sustained any damage. I needed to find a new doctor because I was due to deliver any day. And, to top it off, we had not had air conditioning for over three days due to widespread power outages from the storm.
So, at my wit’s end, I locked myself in the bathroom, sat on the floor and cried. I gave myself permission to just sob, letting it all out. And providentially, right at that moment, my friend Alison texted me.
She’d been through hurricane evacuation and recovery before, having endured Hurricane Michael just a couple of years before. She knew the stress and exhaustion and fear I was experiencing, so she said to me what had been said to her time and time again:
You can do hard things.
We can all stand to hear those words, especially during Lent.
You can do hard things. You can — you, made in God’s image and likeness; you, with the capacity for rational thought and the ability to freely choose; you, who are so abundantly loved by God that he longs for relationship with you — you, precious and valuable.
You can do hard things. You’re capable. You’re able. You are equipped to charge forward and take on whatever you set your mind to (within reason), and it is entirely possible that you will succeed. You can (and will) come out on the other side successful.
You can do hard things. What you have set your mind to, taken on as a challenge or find yourself facing can be difficult. It will be hard. It isn’t for the fainthearted or the unwilling. It’s for the bold, the brave, the committed. Yet those hard things we tackle are worth it, drawing us ever closer to the one who loves us best and knows us most.
You can do hard things.
Lent is a “hard thing.” An entire season of hard things, in fact. Fasting and sacrifice. Generosity, perhaps when we don’t want to be generous. A season for prayer, even (and especially) when we don’t have much to say.
This Lent has felt particularly hard. It’s a Lent after a year that felt like a never-ending Lent. Last year during Lent, we learned of COVID-19, of what it could do and what we would have to do to keep safe and slow the spread. The world shut down during Lent, and we didn’t imagine it still wouldn’t be open by and through the next Lent.
Yet here we are, once again finding ourselves in a season where we embraced voluntary hard things like fasting and giving alms amid the hard things of the current circumstances in the world.
I could use a good bathroom floor cry just thinking about it.
But we can do, and have done, these hard things. Fasting from the snooze button, the sodas, the Netflix binges, the social media scrolling — giving those things up has given us the chance to turn our attention more fully to the Lord.
Taking on the practice of reading Scripture, praying a rosary in the evening, trying to attend daily Mass and a weekly holy hour — the commitment of our time has given us renewed purpose.
Giving from our abundance, not just our leftovers, has made us more patient, hospitable and kind. We’ve given, knowing that our generosity reflects God’s abundantly generous outpouring of himself.
Fasting, praying and giving alms are hard things to do. They are practices that have stretched us, pushed us sometimes to the very margins of our hearts and minds.
But it is in that stretching and at the margins that we have begun to see the hand of God, inviting us to endure — to persevere — to take comfort in what I think he would say to us: You can do hard things.
Lent is a time where we hear more clearly each day: You can step away from this, and you can begin to do that, and you can do it all for love of me.
We can endure, have endured, the Lenten desert, not merely because we want to seem holy or appear faithful, but because we actually want to grow in holiness and deepen our faith. We carry our cross, knowing we are not the first or last ones to do so, and we are confident the Lord carries it beside us.
You can do hard things. You can endure the Lenten season, even though there isn’t much of it left. And you can do that, and journey through what seems to be this permanent Lent, because he is with us as we do.
Katie Prejean McGrady is a Catholic speaker, award-winning author and host of The Katie McGrady Show on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. She lives in Louisiana with her family.