"When the goin' gets tough, the tough get goin'."
It’s an old saying, and we have all heard it at one time or another. The implication seems clear: when one faces hard times, one shouldn’t cave, whine or falter, rather dig in and get to it! It is easy to like the statement, or at least what it implies. I think I apply it to myself often enough. And yet, there are times when I realize that nothing is as simple as it seems. For example, the statement “cut and run” hardly describes the reality of opposing significant public policy questions about the dignity of life, health care and more.
Maybe this mind set is really more a veneer than the real thing. For after confronting a challenge and getting a sense of its difficulty, more often than not, I confess, it is too tough for me. I cannot handle it alone. I need God’s help. Praying when we are in trouble seems as natural as breathing. I think everyone does it. You know the old saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes”. And we don’t need to be in a foxhole to find prayer as our response.
This is the last Sunday before Lent begins this Wednesday. We find Jesus teaching with his disciples on the lakeshore. After a while Jesus tells Peter to head out to the deep waters and fish. Peter’s response is clear, they have tried that and it didn’t work—no fish that day. I sort of imagine Jesus shooting him a glance at that point and Peter getting the idea: “But if you say so….” Their catch was so astonishing Peter begs Jesus to “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In each instance, when the going got tough, Peter wanted “out”.
Each of us, on our own journey in life, faces challenges and temptations. True enough, we have to “dig in” and struggle when the going gets tough. Yet the real response of the Christian is not only to dig in, but also to realize a few other things. First, we are not alone in our struggle. We are members of a community, the Church, and we make our journey together with lots of others. We can and should count on others for their prayers and support. Second, Sacred Scripture offers us countless lessons about the kindness, mercy and unconditional love of God for each and all of us. Encountering this reservoir of strength and energy is as far away as choosing to pray.
Jesus’ response to Peter’s fears is the very same one He offers each of us at the challenging moments of our lives: “Do not be afraid.”
So, the old saying, When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’, should be changed to something like, When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get prayin’. May our journey together this Lent be a time when prayer and closeness to the Lord grows and grows.