March 22, 2016

What is the Purpose of Difficulties?, pt. 2


If you’re similar to me, your journey through life has been full of mountains and valleys. You may have been faced with life-threatening trials the size of Mt. Everest. It’s gets harder to breathe in the higher altitude, and you truly wonder if you’ll ever reach the top.

In my last article, I wrote about how victory comes after the struggle. Trials can be blessings in disguise; we just have to be patient. Today, I would like to explore the topic of opposition more deeply.

What is Opposition?

Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines it this way: something that opposes; hostile or contrary action or condition. For example, joy comes after sorrow.

In the science of physics, it can be explained by Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Quotes about Opposition

“Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition—such as lifting weights—we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.—Stephen R. Covey
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“Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.”—Dorothy Height
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“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”—Orison Swett Marden

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Trials are a time “to force a smile, gaze heavenward, and say, ‘I understand, Lord. I know what this is. A time to prove myself, isn’t it?’”—Jorg Klebingat

Prominent figures who Endured Trials

The Catholic Church traditionally requires that the people they categorize as saints have a proven, documented record of at least one miracle. It goes without saying that those who produce wonders are faced with setbacks.

St. Patrick of Ireland (5th century)
Some may wonder why, in America, we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every March 17th. Who was he? What exactly did he do? Why do we wear green?
The primary patron saint of Ireland was born in Roman-occupied Britain. He was a Christian missionary in Ireland, and eventually he became a bishop. We honor him by wearing green, the favorite color of “The Emerald Isle”. (I’ve been there; it is very green and beautiful.)
Naturally, as a foreigner and a follower of an unfamiliar religion, he faced great opposition. He was without legal protection.  He also refused to accept gifts (bribes) from kings and other prominent figures. He was beaten and imprisoned. It goes without saying that his teachings weren’t accepted by everyone.
St. Anthony of Egypt (3rd century)
He is called “The Father of all Monks”. He pioneered the idea of leaving society and living a strict, simple life. He lived much of his adult life in the wilderness; first in a tomb, and then in an abandoned fort.
As St. Anthony grew closer to God through his meditations and studies, he was faced with opposition. This unsurprising fact has been documented. The accounts of the attacks vary. According to Wikipedia, he was first confronted in his mind. Next, he was beaten. During the third wave of challenges, he was confronted with hordes of phantoms appearing as wild animals. When he laughed and told them to go away because they had no authority over him, the specters vanished.
The other side of the coin is that St. Anthony was known as a healer in his time. He is still appealed to for help against infectious diseases, especially diseases of the skin, such as St. Anthony’s Fire.
My Conclusion

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”—Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV)

How is Newton’s Third Law of Motion working in your life?