At any point in our journey—especially when we begin or deepen our discernment, it’s important to begin where we are, because God is always “here” with us (wherever “here” is). This is true for two reasons:
1) First, God is faithful and would never abandon us, and
2) Because wherever we find ourselves, God wills or allows us to be here and is at work in our life at this precise time and place. The present moment is where we can find God and do God’s will. “Now is the day of salvation!” Saint Paul reminds us (2 Cor. 6:2)
Beginning where we are can be hard for us if we’re not happy or struggling. It’s easy to recognize God’s presence in the good things in our lives, when we’re happy. It’s harder for some of us to discover God’s presence when we’re struggling, because we think the struggle is an obstacle to God. We may want our “new beginning” to be an escape from the struggles in our life, but it’s more likely that beginning anew will help us to see our challenges in a new way, so that the struggle can become the very thing that helps us draw closer to God. Our worst struggle can actuallyl become a steppingstone to God.
Several years ago, a friend of mine started suffering from a respiratory illness. She repeatedly caught the flu, which lasted for two months and agitated her usually dormant asthma. Used to walking twelve miles a week, she now struggled to walk up one flight of stairs. Some days, breathing took so much effort that she stayed in bed.
For two years, she suffered this illness off and on. At first, the restrictions of her activity agitated and frustrated her. Although she was forced to slow down physically, she continually focused on all of the things she couldn’t do, or had to give up doing. And she’d push herself to get up sooner, to be more active, and then end up sicker than before.
But during the second year, she finally accepted her condition. And when she did, she started seeing possibilities. Being forced to slow down gave her an opportunity to pray, read, and reflect more. She became more present to her family because she wasn’t always rushing off. She started to realize that, whether she was well or ill, she didn’t want to rush around as much as she had been doing. Accomplishing more was not what was most important to her. She had the time to think about what was most important in her life, and to set those as her priorities for both when she was sick and when she got well.
Accepting her illness didn’t just enable my friend to take care of herself and recover, but it also became a gift, an opportunity for her to reset her priorities in life. Her illness became a steppingstone towards discerning a more serene lifestyle.
To journal with:
What do I have trouble accepting in my life right now?
How might God be inviting me or challenging me to grow through this struggle?