Let’s be real honest with each other for a moment. There are very few of us who are really enjoying the way things are going right now. Almost everyone in the midst of some series of struggles right now, whether tied to illness, social unrest, economic uncertainty, or even just boredom due to how many places are shut down, either still or again. Now, obviously this doesn’t mean that we aren’t having fun at times. Hopefully, everyone is finding ways to enjoy themselves while staying safe. The question, though, remains which will we focus on. Are you going to spend your time in worry with brief bouts of enjoyment?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a poster that hangs in my classroom with a quote from my favorite writer, GK Chesterton, which says: “The key in life is whether you take things for granted or with gratitude.” I think the reason is because I’m noticing more and more how much I take for granted. Honestly, my struggles at this point are fairly minor, and yet they seem to often dominate my thinking. In re-reading the book, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, I came across many lines and passages which stood out to me. The fitting one in this conversation, though, was “If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ?”
It really set me thinking about why I struggle and suffer. I mean this a little differently than we often do. I’m not asking what causes my suffering, that we can talk about another time. I’m wondering about why God chooses to let us experience struggles, what is the benefit of them? Here, Thomas A Kempis’ line about being a friend of Christ really wrings true for me. In suffering, I am able to know Christ better, to relate in some small way with struggles and suffering He endured. The greatest comfort comes in the truth of what St. Paul said in his Letter to the Colossians: “…in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body…” In other words, we have the opportunity to participate in the saving work of Jesus Christ. What greater gift could we be given, or give to others?
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