“It is good for us sometimes to have troubles and adversities, for they cause us to look inward and recognize that we too are exiles, whose hopes should not be centered on anything in this world.” Book 1, Chapter 12, The Imitation of Christ
Last night I heard a question that struck a chord. It was simple, yet profound. “What things in life are you holding on to that are keeping you from God?” My first thought was – what am I not holding on to? But really when I dig further – it’s my avoidance of struggle.
I think most of us can relate. Our society today is so good at the dangling carrot trick. We guiltily and blindly walk towards the all too familiar message persuading us to “keep up” in order to gain happiness. Or if we would just do what they say, we could finally taste freedom. Or if we would only just abandon our values and conform, we would be so accepted and loved. It is all so appealing, and really just an arm’s length away. Like if we could just… take ooone mooore… step… just… a… litttttle… fuuuuurther…
But at what cost are we letting these worldly pressures control us? How long will it last? All of this striving. How long can we actually stand the inauthenticity? It is overwhelming. Too much. We can not sustain the notion that life can be easy if we just reach a certain status. Even the things that claim to make life less challenging, are challenging. Take marriage for example. We are given the illusion that it will be a fairytale. And then… we all know how that goes. In my own marriage just when we seem to overcome something, we are on to the next. For us six years ago, we were met square in the face with our personality differences and expectations. Five years ago it was our committment to each other. Three years ago it was trust. A year ago, balance. Now, something completely different but equally hard. It has always been something. Yet even though I know that it will always be something it still feels every time like (as dramatic as this may sound) a real life tragedy. Why? Because it doesn’t look like the fairytale I hoped, and therefore it must be the opposite. Because of that damn carrot. Because the carrot is so hypnotizing and makes my struggles seem unnecessary; making me feel like I am doing it all wrong and not trying hard enough.
The world always manages to distract us from the deeper issues. It feels as though society wants us not to grow and mature, but to always be chasing and striving for the carrot. But thank God for leading us away from the worldly answers and straight to the wisdom that says – this isn’t all there is. Life is not meant to be a rat race. We are meant to struggle and at the same time we are meant to have faith and believe that we can climb the steep mountains. And even though we may not have wealth and comfort, or even happiness most days, it is quite alright. Because what we do get is grace. And strength, and courage, and perseverance… the really good stuff. The stuff that refines us and molds our souls into the material made for our ultimate goal when we finally leave this earth.
My hope is that I will learn to accept my struggles, not as a hinderance, but as a teacher. As a path towards God. I pray that they pull me deeper instead of living on the surface. Because I believe a shallow faith and a superficial life – that is the true tragedy.