It is not just through the blessings that we know God is in our lives; if that’s all we are interested in from God, then we are only interested in ourselves. Even more important than the blessings are the challenges that we experience throughout our lives and what God is trying to teach us through them. If we are following Jesus Christ, we are being led by Him to learn how to love God, ourselves and others as God loves. And that path is filled with challenges designed to open up our hearts and minds to God in everyone and in everything.
When we face challenges in our lives, It is up to us to ask for His help in any challenge we experience. Each of our challenges contains a lesson for us that would bring us closer to God if we would accept the lesson He is sending us. In fact, I think of our lives here on Earth as a school teaching us how to love, if we are willing to follow what God wants for us. Then, Christ will help us through each challenge and will heal us of the problem(s) we are having. Mostly, that means letting go of some cultural attitude or objective that we have been taught in favor of doing what we were created to do.
The challenges may be as small as being caught in slow traffic when we’re in a hurry. They may conflict with our desires for ourselves as in the case of trying to get our adult children to follow what we want for them, when they are going off the path we envisioned for them. Challenges may be huge like the death or serious illness of a loved one or of ourselves. Or difficulties with someone at work. In whatever comes into our lives we are to follow God’s wishes for us. Oh, I know, surrender isn’t easy. For years I had to know “Why?” something was in my life before I could work with it. “Why? Why? Why?” I would ask endlessly, until I finally realized that the challenge was already in my life and that I had better deal with it. My suffering went way down with my giving up the “Why?” because I was no longer resistant. Then it was just a matter of looking at what I was facing and figuring out—with God’s help—what I needed to do about it.
It wasn’t until later that I would realize that the things I had been taught by my parents/ our culture/the world made the resistance in me. And without the resistance, there was only figuring out “What’s next?” Each challenge I encountered had a lesson for me, a letting-go of assumptions I had held since I was taught them early on in my life. So, each challenge accepted ended up freeing me from an idea promoted by the world that was not helpful in God’s kingdom. Over time, as I faced challenge after challenge in my life and surrendered to it, I felt lighter and lighter in my body and spirit, freed of the burden of what is not true.
The first glimpse I had of this was hearing God speak in my mind: “I have an agenda for my life.” All I had ever wanted was to be a wife and mother and to be accepted. But from then on, I started to ask, “What do I really want to do” instead of “What should I be doing?” This was my first experience of God speaking to me and the first time I looked within me for an answer. Always before, I was consumed with whatever everyone else thought I should do.
One of our biggest lessons from the Lord is this: that we human beings are all created in God’s image(Genesis 1:27) and that God loves and forgives each and every one of us, no matter what we do in our lives. He just waits for us to turn back to Him to express that love and forgiveness to us. Like the errant son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we too have gone off in profligate, materialistic living. And we come back to the Father, expecting to be a servant in His house, but He is watching and waiting for our return. He offers no criticism or punishment; He celebrates our return and restores us to our rightful place in His household. (Luke 15:11-32)
This parable describes exactly the love and forgiveness of God that we are to adopt for everyone we meet in our lives—no criticism or punishment, only love and embrace and a restored place in the kingdom of God. All we have to do is to turn towards Him, to repent and He will manage the rest of our lives bringing us to our purpose and the fulfillment of our lives as we follow His will for us. And, then, all we have to do is to surrender to every desire He has for us and to accept His love and forgiveness. And that is exactly what we are to bring into the world—His love and forgiveness, freely given. It is an incredible system that He has brought us into, one that does nothing but benefit us and everyone we encounter, when we turn back to Him. Thanks be to God!
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I accept the challenges in my life and work with them or get angry at God because they are there. Do I think that God should only bless me? Do I see how much of my suffering is tied to my resistance?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who accept what comes to them and work to understand the lesson each one has for us. May I embrace my life as it evolves and stay committed and faithful to the Lord.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.