Challenges That Transform

None of us want to have problems in life.  That’s just simple human nature.  We don’t want to experience health problems, relationship difficulties, or financial insecurity, nor do we want to learn our kids are doing things they shouldn’t.  We all want to sail through life with as few challenges as possible.  There is nothing wrong with desiring a journey with few bumps, but as we all know, that’s just not the way life goes for most of us.  That is a given. What isn’t a given is our willingness to acknowledge our bumps -- to ourselves and to others.

Not only do we not want problems, but when we have them, many of us tend to deny them!  Some of us deny our problems because it is our way of coping and surviving.   But denial of our problems denies us the opportunity to grow spiritually.  The peace of avoidance and denial is not true peace. Richard Rohr, a well-known and respected spiritual writer and speaker, says spirituality in its best sense is what we do with our pain.  Spirituality is about transformation.  And when we don’t seek transformation from our pain, we simply end up transmitting it.  We transmit it to others, and we pass on the opportunity for growth that God is putting in front of us.

So how do we ensure that the problems we face in life transform us?  By truly trusting God.  Not trusting Him to solve or eliminate our problems, but trusting Him to give us the grace to hold our troubles, accept them and navigate our way through them.

When we face painful or difficult situations and deliberately, consciously and sincerely place them God’s hands, we feel much more peace than we ever thought possible.  And the situations eventually resolve themselves in ways that may not be what we ideally hoped for, but that in hindsight reveal value far beyond what we could have initially imagined.

photo credit: Mike Mozart, Potholes



Inside Versus Outside (with Richard Rohr)

No doubt we have all used the actions of others as a standard for judging ourselves. We begin as children, blurting out the shortcomings of our siblings to garner mom and dad’s favor, and we evolve into more subtle adults, silently gauging other’s actions when our own self-worth needs a boost.

But God’s view is not limited to behavior.  Instead, He can focus like a laser beam right into our souls. In other words, He knows what we are thinking regardless of what we are saying or doing!

Does that mean we should ensure our outer actions always match our inner motives?  Of course not! We are human; our internal thoughts are not always pure and altruistic.  For example, just because we feel resentful doesn't mean we should act resentful.  It’s often a good idea to act big-hearted and good-natured even when we don’t feel big-hearted and good-natured. 

Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr

But it’s not wise to assume God is pleased as long as our actions look good. God knows we aren’t perfect, but He wants us to face our internal flaws and work on overcoming them.  He wants to see progress in our souls, and there can be no progress without an honest examination of our inner thoughts and a subsequent effort to do better.

Richard Rohr, prolific writer, speaker, and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, says that although it is uncomfortable to face our shortcomings, there are risks if we ignore them:

We all have one or more detrimental tendencies, which could include an inclination to be impatient, quick to anger, defensive, controlling, unforgiving, jealous – you get the idea.  Eliminating these seemingly inherent characteristics is a tall order, but frequent and sincere acknowledgment, even if just to ourselves, will go a long way toward diffusing them.  And diffusion is definitely progress.