Spiritual Growth

    A major advantage that people of faith have, people with an active spiritual life, is that, when hardships come, they have a way of coping.  They might have the wisdom to see that the hardship is minor, in contrast to their many blessings.  They might have a practice of gratitude.  They might imagine heaven, or belonging to God, and consequently see their problems in a much smaller scale.  As a result, people with productive spiritual lives are rich.  They have a worthy asset.  Their non-spiritual counterparts are impoverished people indeed.  I always feel so sorry for secular people.  They seem so miserable–judging others with a critical eye, always looking out for the protection of their mighty egos, being fixated on goods like reputation or wealth that can so easily slip through their fingers.  How miserable.  
    It is one thing to accept hardships in our lives and not let them ruffle us too much.  But it is another huge jump forward in the spiritual life to see one’s hardships as blessings.  To see them as the actual source of goodness in one’s life (all the while remaining hardships) is a matter of spiritual mastery.  How almost impossible this is to the natural self, not only to accept a hardship, but to welcome it!
     The Christian faith, and I believe the Christian faith alone, affords the chance to attain this spiritual genius.  The cross, according to Scripture, is life-giving.  The cross, while remaining awful, is what opens heaven for people who do not deserve it.  The cross is what God uses to give wonderful gifts to people who have been mean to God, who have shunned God, who have fallen short, over and over, of God’s hope for them.  The cross IS mercy.   When a person, even a sinner, even a wretched person far from God, says, “Yes” to the cross, and “Yes” to God’s mercy, then she finds immediate love and forgiveness.  Then, when she has crosses in her life, she can, not only live with them, putting them into perspective, but actually welcome them, embracing them as life-giving.  Crosses in our lives are sources of grace.  They are fonts of humility, joy, peace, surrender, and intimacy with the Lord.  The greatest spiritual wisdom is to not just accept our crosses, but actually cling to them.
     God, grant me the grace I need to embrace my crosses.  How desperately I need your help to tread such heights!