I struggle, therefore I am

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17 Nov 2015
I wonder whether I am brave enough to write about this. I am a 29-year-old woman and I know that there are many life experiences I haven’t had, sorrows whose depths I haven’t plumbed. I honestly believe, that no matter who we are or how old we are, our lives have significant bumps in them. There are times of intense pain and struggle where we wonder how we can go on. There are times of hurt and betrayal where our hearts feel like they are crushed, torn, broken and bleeding. All we want is to be fixed, made whole again and never ever have to bear this pain again.
I’m beginning to believe, however, that these times of struggle serve a purpose in my life and that they may not always be (or at least solely) the work of the bad spirit taking me away from God. Reflecting over really difficult times in my life, I realise that some of my strongest values have been forged in this crucible of pain and struggle.
As a survivor of my parents’ divorce and the subsequent straining of family relationships, I have learnt the essential nature of forgiveness, its challenge and its indivisibility with love. I have learnt to put my relationships first, above ego and hurt feelings.
In a past job I struggled with a supervisor who gave only negative feedback and thanks to her I have strong beliefs about the importance of giving and receiving positive feedback.
When I was 18 I was fortunate to spend a year on exchange in France. I met so many beautiful people but I was so challenged as everyone around me spoke better French than me. However, I was given the gift of empathy to know what it’s like not to be able to communicate and to struggle in a second language. Yet, it can be so hard to get perspective when you are struggling and some of these insights have taken me more than 10 years to realise.
It is much easier to talk of past struggles and with the perspective and wisdom of hindsight, to philosophise. While discerning ways of dealing with recent struggles, I have found some hope. Recently I participated in an Ignatian spirituality course called ‘Listening to Jesus.’ I am in no way an expert on this subject but there have been some really interesting ideas revealed to me over the weeks of this course.
St Ignatius of Loyola talks about positive times in our lives or periods of spiritual consolation where it is easy to follow God and to go to Church.
However, these times are always followed by periods of spiritual desolation, where we really struggle with our faith and find it difficult to see His Hand in our lives. It’s human instinct to want to remain in the former but what’s really interesting is that it is almost impossible to feel humility while in spiritual consolation. When I am happy, I can feel like I have all the answers and often will not turn to God to ask for help or try to discern His will. So I often need the down times bring me back to God and remind me to surrender to His will.
One Sunday, I heard a thought provoking homily. The priest said that happiness is about what you have. It’s about obtaining things often of a physical nature, a good job, a nice car. We often say to ourselves, ‘I’ll be happy when I have ….’ However, he said that joy is about being loved and finding joy is about feeling God’s incredible overwhelming love for us. This priest encouraged me to go beyond ephemeral feelings and ask instead ‘is Christ in this?’
So that’s the challenge. Next time I am struggling, I will try to see it as an important part of my journey.
A friend shared a song with me recently called ‘Blessings’* and the lyrics beautifully speak of this struggle:
‘What if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?’

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