Before writing this blog, my knowledge of St. Patrick’s Day read thus: it’s on March 17th, something Ireland, and if you don’t wear green, you will be assaulted. If you live in America, I assume your knowledge of the holiday is about the same as mine. However, after doing some digging of my own, I have come to understand that Saint Patrick had to endure a fair share of hardships. Looking at his complete timeline, I now realize just how significant each one of his tribulations was to the cultivation of his impact and the legacy we see today. So, in the spirit of knowledge and cultural awareness, let’s take a look at the adversities of St. Patrick and what they teach us about our own struggles.
Saint Patrick (full name Maewyn Succat) was born in Britain near the end of the 4th century (386 AD). There is little information regarding his childhood, but when he was sixteen, he was enslaved by Irish pirates. He was then forced to tend sheep in Ireland as a slave for six years. As he became more accustomed to the Irish language and practices, Patrick began to grow in his faith. He started to pray daily and began to see his captivity as a test from God. One night, he heard a voice telling him to escape and return to his homeland. This led him to board a boat with a group of sailors venturing to Britain, and he was reunited with his family after being lost at sea for approximately a month. After escaping imprisonment, Patrick received a vision of the Irish people reaching out to him and was inspired to bring the Gospel to the citizens of Ireland. Although the people didn’t embrace him upon his initial return, Saint Patrick went on to become the most influential Christian figure in the history of Ireland, converting and baptizing individuals across the nation. He continued working with, and establishing, churches throughout Ireland until his death towards the end of the 5th century (between 461-93 AD).
As you can see, Saint Patrick endured a lot during his lifetime, but his faith carried him through such hardships. He possessed a mindset that didn’t allow him to give up when things seemed impossible to overcome. But, of course, I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “don’t give up!” a million times in a variety of different environments. Every adult is aware of the importance of perseverance and developing a strong work ethic. The question is this: how? How can I build a mindset that helps me push through rough times? How can I look at adversity in a new light that helps me move past it? How do I not give up?
For starters, I would suggest ridding yourself of the preconceived notion that adversity has to be a bad thing. The words “adversity” and “hardship” can often come to our minds with negative connotations, which makes us want to avoid them. However, hardships can be viewed in ways that are less negative. For example, Saint Patrick viewed his enslavement as a test of his faith from God. Of course, the word “test” might also have a negative connotation for many people, but Saint Patrick understood that all good things come from God. With this in mind, he was able to view his adversity in a different way.
This transitions nicely into the next question people may have: how can I view my adversity in a truly positive light? As previously mentioned, understanding God’s goodness can certainly help us see our struggles positively. The Bible also specifically lays out how adversity leads to goodness in Romans: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). If we begin to view our tribulations more as opportunities for character development and less as burdens we have to carry, it is more likely that we will have greater hope and energy when approaching such trials. When our hopes are high, we can garner the strength and energy to tackle whatever may be in front of us.
This leads us to the last, and certainly most important, question: where do I find hope? Saint Patrick makes the source of his hope very clear in his confession, written shortly before he died: “thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently [offer] my soul as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord” (“The Confession of Saint Patrick”, par. 34). Because Saint Patrick put his hope in Christ, he had a renewed sense of energy when approaching adversity; he even began to view adversity more positively, which drove him to not give up when his tasks seemed impossible to overcome.
So, today as we’re pinching our friends and showing off our horrendous Irish accents, I hope this holiday can serve as a reminder of where our hope comes from. Even in our most troubled times, God is constant. We just have to remember to look up and know He’s there. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)