Life is difficult. Most of us muddle our way through trying to escape the difficulties, patch up the wounds and fight against the things that continue to cause us discomfort and pain. Often times the running and kicking back only causes more distress and deepens our discouragement. We are left battle weary and no more trouble free than when we began.
Perhaps, we have imagined life differently; an easier and smoother ride. Matthew 6:34 reminds us that there is always hardship and each day has it’s own trouble. Just as the changing seasons bringing their own blessings and problems, our daily circumstances may change but life is never trouble free. There is always something we would love to avoid, deny or escape.
I read M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled, back in the early 80’s. Just as he was on a spiritual journey of making sense of life and people and God, I was on my own similar trek. I struggled to understand the purposes of life, relationships, love, difficulties and pain; the connection between God, myself and real life. I was torn between outwardly pretending that life wasn’t difficult and internally weeping under the weight of it. As a twenty-something, separated and nearly divorced Christian woman who didn’t know her Bible well, this book was revolutionary. It had given me new perspective.
He had me with the first two paragraghs of chapter one.
“Life is difficult.”
“This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
I found truth in these few sentences. Reading on, he highlights the necessity of suffering and the value of experiencing pain. He lays out disciplines for experiencing pain and meeting it head on rather than avoiding it. These personal practices were good, wise and helpful. Who would disagree with taking responsibility for your choices or delaying gratification? These are choices that differentiate the proverbial children from adults. My need to grow up, face difficulties head on and do hard things became clear.
And now some 40 years later with many trials and difficulties behind me and a fuller knowledge of the Word of God, I can see that while The Road Less Traveled may have set me on a better track of thinking, the ability to actually walk it well was made possible only by the grace of God. I have seen his hand in even the most painful of times. His love for me has transcended pampering and moved toward perfecting.
I recognize that the issues and solutions presented in Peck’s book were centered on self and although the idea of grace, a greater power, and God were present, they were not prominent and foremost in his philosophy. These are good personal practices but they are not the embodiment of freedom, pain management, or transformative living. What seemed sensical lacked the fullness of truth and the power to transform the one who was broken by life’s difficulties or battered and bruised by their own poor choices. Though acceptance and surrender are a part of Peck’s spiritual equation, surrender to God is the only solid solution for the human condition.
As we are about the business of recreating a better “me” through self awareness and the power of best practices, God is about the business of transforming; creating a new person in Christ, by the power of His Word and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. Pain, difficulties and disappointments are His tools, by which He shapes and forms us into the likeness of Jesus. How we process difficulties determines the condition of our heart toward God, others and ourselves as well as our ability to surrender to God and be changed into the image of Christ.
Yes! Life is difficult. Life’s difficulties are not without purpose.
Romans 5:3-5 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love have been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17 So we do not lose heart . Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
Facing trials head on, accepting circumstances as they are and not as we have hoped them to be is a lesser traveled road. Surrendering our lives, our circumstances, our will and our control to our Loving Father who keeps us sheltered under His wing is the pathway to peace, contentment, joy, renewal and a transformed life. We will never be as we once were. We will be tempered and humbled.
Life is difficult. There is eternal purpose in our difficulties.
The last line of an interview printed in Psychology Today, quotes M. Scott Peck as saying, “I’m somebody who often, like so many people, preaches what he needs to learn.”
I echo your words, Mr. Peck!