The Spirituality of Struggle

By Rev. Becky Brown | 2021-07-09 | 3 min read

I am keenly aware of my uneasiness with the unknown. I am a planner and find great comfort in schedules. I like to know what is coming next, so I can be prepared, and prepare others in my care for what lies ahead. The most difficult moments in my life are coupled with the struggle of the unknown. This has been one of my greatest difficulties with pandemic life since last March. The constant change and adjustment make plans very difficult to make, let alone keep. I have often wondered in my quiet time, why do I feel this way? The disorientation often, eventually, leads me to God and discovery through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes that journey is months long, and that’s never comfortable or easy.

Wil Hernandez recently published a book called Accidental Monkabout his two-month extended stay at the Benedictine Abbey of the Transfiguration in the southern Philippines. He embarked on an Asian tour a month before the lockdowns began, and as the reality of the pandemic began to surface, it became clear that he would have an unplanned layover at the monastery. The layover was open ended, and the date of return to his family in California was unknown and nebulous. Throughout the first few weeks of his stay, he grapples with what he calls “the spirituality of struggle.”

Hernandez came across a newsletter posting by Joan Chittister, a reflection of the transformative nature of life’s unwanted interruptions:

“To struggle is to begin to see the world differently. It tests all the faith in the goodness of God that we have ever professed. It requires audacity we did not know we had. It demands a commitment to truth. It tests our purity of heart. It brings total metamorphosis of the soul. If we are willing to persevere through the depths of struggle we can emerge with conversion, self-acceptance, endurance, faith, surrender, and a kind of personal growth that takes us be- yond pain to understanding. What we see is the fullness of the self come to birth in the only way it really can: in labor and under trial.”

At the essence of my own struggle centers on my own need to control. I have learned that when I am able to let go, to release my grasp (no easy task, no matter what the situation), I am able to see, hear, and sense God more clearly. Living in this tension, even though it is uncomfortable, challenging, and unsettling is central to my own spiritual process. The struggle is the process that leads to transformation. Trusting in that process is my greatest struggle. I am grateful God always meets me there.

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