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Nothing Worthwhile is Easy

One of the most important shifts we can make in life is the awareness that life is hard.

Even on a good day, life is challenging.

Take one of the best days of your life: a wedding, the birth of a child, an ordination. All

of those events feature wonderful moments and lots of joy, but weddings also involve

negotiating conflicts with family members that don’t mix well, worries about the meal the

caterer serves, sore feet from uncomfortable shoes. Ordinations are magical days of

celebration that also involve the anxiety of having to do everything for the first time in

front of a big audience. Births involve smiles and tears, cooing and cuddling… and a lot

of blood.

When life is hard, when it’s painful and complicated, that doesn’t necessarily mean that

we’re doing anything wrong. It’s just that life is that way. It’s hard. And maybe that’s

simply because this is not our truest home. We’re all just passing through on our way to

our true home in God’s heavenly kingdom. The late poet John Donohue captured this

well when he wrote,

“It's strange to be here, the mystery never leaves you alone."

Once we accept that life is hard, that there’s no way to sidestep difficulty or outsmart suffering, we can start to make better decisions. We can begin to recognize that a lot of life’s worst problems come about from whenever we are trying to avoid the suffering in life that can’t be avoided. For example, when marriage is hard, we begin to suspect that it clearly indicates that we chose the wrong partner and need to leave him or her. But whenever I ask our parish couples who have been together for 40, 50 or 60 years (or more) what the secret of marriage is, they always say, “It’s hard work, Father.” They say it without any shame, without acting as though that means that they’ve done it wrong. In fact, they’ll often go further and say, “Tell the younger couples not to expect that it’s easy,” and many will add, “But nothing worthwhile ever is.”

…Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Isn’t that true? Life is hard, but it’s supremely worthwhile. It’s the best of all God’s gifts because it’s the table on which all the other gifts of God are spread.

Since we can’t sidestep the legitimate challenges of life, we have to see that many of the “exits” we would take from challenging situations would lead to at least as much suffering as we’re experiencing by staying in those situations. A poem that has recently made the rounds on social media captures this starkly, but quite well….

Marriage is hard

Divorce is hard

Choose your hard.

Obesity is hard

Fitness is hard

Choose your hard.

Being in debt is hard

Financial discipline is hard

Choose your hard.

Communication is hard

Not communicating is hard

Choose your hard.

Life will never be easy.

It will always be hard

But we can choose our hard.

Pick wisely.

I find this to be a tremendously challenging, but equally inspiring thought. Nothing ever takes away from us our ability to choose how to react to a given situation. We may not be able to find an exit from the fact that life is hard, but we can choose our hard.

After all, as our elders have wisely told us… nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Your grateful pastor,

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