My friend Pam and I spoke at a women’s conference in Moose Lake, MN recently, about the “waves of adversity” we all face in our lives. I’ll be posting follow-ups for the next couple weeks, so the women who were there (and anyone who wasn’t!) can continue to chew on and discuss the topic. This one is written by Pam, who is Associate Pastor at Mahtowa Covenant Church.
We live in a culture that avoids pain with great effort and ingenuity. Whether it be physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, or relational pain our society has a fix – a means to escape (there are isles of pain relievers). I think during times of struggle, when we are faced with a painful reality, we can fall into the temptation of avoidance, denial, or numbing. Struggle threatens to deaden our emotions, our thoughts, our dreams. However, we are invited to engage the pain of the struggle – not for the sake of the struggle – but for the sake of experiencing a deepening relationship and dependence on God.
Joan Chittister, in her book “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope,” talks about a spirituality of struggle. She says, “The spirituality of struggle begins with the decision to grow or to retreat, to live a little more or to die a little bit…The essence of struggle is neither endurance nor denial. The essence of struggle is the decision to become new rather than simply to become older” (22-23). Prolonged struggle can cause us to deny the painful reality we are facing, it can make us feel our only options are to either numb ourselves to the pain or to take it upon ourselves to overcome or to conquer the experience. To endure the pain until it ceases or to avoid acknowledging it impacts us.
The reality is we are impacted by the struggles we face and we are not able to truly escape it. The temptation is to keep our eyes focused on the struggle and pain thus, as Chittister says, retreat and die a little bit, or we can seek the one who brings about new life even through death and therefore experience growth and life in a deeper and richer way.