How to be happy when life feels like an endurance test

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that God loves a cheerful giver. And I give myself over and over each day with these little ones given to me, but often not cheerfully.

How am I to do it? Get through each day simply and cheerfully like she did?

Yes she prayed, yes she was at daily Mass, but I’m looking for something else.

I can’t get to Mass every day, I sometimes don’t have chunks of time pray or my mind’s too scattered and tired (or irritated!) to pray through the day.

I’ll tell you how I get through the day sometimes. I just mentally grit my teeth and try to make it through to ‘my’ time – when the kids are in bed and I can lose myself in a book or the internet for a while.

And then, if the unexpected happens and I don’t get that reward I’ve been clinging to all day – doesn’t everybody know it!

I don’t yet have the art of filling the minutes of the day with love. Too often I find everyday life an endurance test.

So how did she do it? With the burning Calcutta heat, the streams of visitors, endless errands, obligations, phone calls, requests for help, for interviews. Did she just grit her teeth and count the hours until the peace and solitude and quiet conversation of cell and chapel and community again?

I sincerely doubt it.

What else did she do to get through each exhausting, fractured day?

She burned with God’s love and so forgot herself. Then the minutes, hours, and days took care of themselves and she was able to remain cheerful even despite the deep, dark, night of the soul that she experienced for so many years.

So how does this help me? I looked in Mother Teresa’s published letters and accounts of people who worked alongside her and found this about her daily life:

She found that singing was a powerful way to overcame difficulty.

An aid worker, who spent time with Mother Teresa and her missionary sisters over the course of two years, noticed this about the community.

He said that the Missionary of Charity foundress especially encouraged her novices, the beginners in the community, to sing hymns and other songs that were meaningful to them to help them accomplish the often gruelling activities of their day.

And then I remember that Cardinal Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan also sang, alone in his tiny prison cell in Saigon for so many years. He wrote that it made him remember that he was still part of the larger world outside.

I need to feel part of the bigger picture too – my little day at home being knitted into the one eternal day that the Lord has made. Remembering that will cheer me up, basically.

And there’s an old saying that he or she who sings, prays twice. I think there’s definitely something to that!

My husband’s put a bunch of praise and worship songs onto the music player at home. (Along with U2, Coldplay, Hunters and Collectors – I can totally pray with some of their songs too.)

I turn it on, and turn it up. And it works. It’s not just a matter of faking it ’til you make it. I remember that, yes, it actually is good to be here.

Because here is where God is.

Emmanuel (God-with-us) is his name after all.

So why not sing?

The Lord is my strength and my song (Psalm 118:14)

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19)

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things (Psalm 98:1)

Come let us sing for joy to the Lord (Psalm 95:1)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary says:

    Hi Marilyn
    Thank you for writing with sheer honesty and truthfulness.
    Being a mother can be such a challenging daunting calling at times-especially when the children are young and not doing much for themselves. Singing is such a great way to pray and praise through the day especially when
    like myself you intend to rise up early to spend time with God to find yourself hitting the snooze button. Making singing a habit with my two boys under 4 has been so rewarding and fulfilling and puts my motherhood mission in perspective especially on days when I feel like I’m going through the motions. Listening to my boys sing scripture is amazing they have such a pure heart and hunger for Gods word its even helped me memorize it for myself so I can call on Gods help when I need it- don’t we all. Keep singing and shining for God xxx


    1. Thanks for your comment Mary. Sometimes I forget all about this, and then put the music on and am amazed at how it can change the whole tone of the day!!


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