By Julia Amting
We all face struggles on a daily basis. Our hearts and minds struggle continually with certain mundane things that we don’t want to do, or with deep pain and heartbreak. For example, there are days that I get up, and I don’t want to go to work because I am simply sad that day. I go to school, looking at the clock to go to the next class, just so I can look at the clock again. We dread working on certain assignments, having necessary conversations, and facing difficult situations. We become endlessly frustrated, because life very very rarely seems to be easy. We enter so many situations with the best of intentions, but our minds or bodies loudly protest because of our spiritual or physical tiredness.
Often, if we seek what is good, and find it, we usually find that it is difficult. Being real, attempts at a good prayer life can feel unrewarding or just seem to require a lot of effort. We get so discouraged in our struggles, and lose sight of Jesus within them, wondering why it all has to be so hard all the time. If doing what is ultimately good for us, and pleasing to the Lord, is the right thing, why is it so difficult? If the Lord is so very good, why does he make life so very hard at times? Is the spiritual discipline and the work required to be a good, healthy, prayerful, and successful person really worth all of this trouble and pain we can’t seem to escape from? Through this very natural and human way of thinking, it is easy to fall into a sort of spiritual depression, where there really seems to be very little joy in living for God and seeking true righteousness. So is a life lived striving for goodness and success really worth it? Is God truly good?
The answer to this is a resounding yes. Although nobody ever said that a life lived in Christ is easy, this type of life is the only one that will truly fulfull us. We must learn to embrace the problems we have, the crosses we were given to carry, the feelings and situations we long to run away from only because it’s easier to do so. We must learn to say yes to the life that we are given, including the problems, the difficult feelings, and the inconveniences of everyday life.
This is a concept that I have been especially struggling with lately. I bitterly wish I could just have a day where everything goes smoothly and the way I want it to. But that’s the thing, by doing that I am stubbornly clinging to my will for that day, telling God that I could do it better if I were in his place, and longing to take control. By surrendering to Him, I am surrendering my desire for control to an incredibly good good Father who wants nothing but my happiness.
St. Therese of Lisieux is a Catholic saint who died a slow and painful death at a very young age of tuberculosis. As she grew up, she often prayed to Christ “I choose it all!” She embraced whatever the Lord put before her because she knew in the depths of her soul that in embracing our struggles and pain and inconveniences, rather than hiding from them, we are trusting that the Lord works all things for our ultimate good. In fact, St. Therese’s greatest fear was clinging to her own will, knowing that God had much much better things in mind.
I don’t think I can talk about surrendering to the Lord without bringing up Mary. Whatever Christian denomination you belong to, you cannot deny that she was a rock star when it came to saying Yes to the Lord, even if it meant suffering. She saw beyond the obstacles to a greater joy, and a greater love, she was attatched to the beauty of God infinitely more than to the fading and superficial beauty of the world.
When we, just like these two incredibly holy people, embrace every problem, difficult assignment, laziness, or inconvenient task by choosing to embrace it with an attitude of surrender, we are seeking Christ in the most raw way we can, the only way we can.
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”
/// Luke 9:23-24 ///
Therefore, as we refuse or begrudgingly carry our crosses, we are actually denying ourselves true life with Christ. I’ve observed that the great paradox of walking with Christ is that we have to get through the very things we dread or fear or struggle with in order to find the joy and peace which surpasses all understanding. The paradox of great struggle and great joy occurring simultaneously. The only way to walk with Jesus in the way of ultimate light and peace and joy is to carry our crosses. Because I think we have only two options when it comes to difficult things. We can avoid them in fear, or embrace them in faith.
Once we decide to embrace what lies before us, even the feelings, conversations, events, classes or activities, the insignificant or significant things we fear or dread, we are free. By choosing God’s will for our day instead of our own, we lose our innate need for control. We are not avoiding the difficult things, letting those obstacles cage us in through fear of the difficult or unknown. There is no fear in Love, and God is Love. In Him is a spirit of Freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:7) When we are not bound by those chains of our fears, whether they are big or small, he fills us with a greater joy. (Psalm 4:7) A joy that goes above and beyond worldly joys and struggles alike. And how do we live this out? By daily, hourly, every instant surrendering ourselves to whatever we might face, saying Yes to it all, choosing it all, knowing how much greater joy and true contentment we find in God alone.