Accepting Reality

But what happens when life presents you with unavoidable or overwhelming suffering? This is where the example of the Jesuit approach to obedience may be helpful. What enables a Jesuit to accept difficult decisions by his superior is the same thing that can help you: the realization that this is what God is inviting you to experience at this moment. It is the understanding that somehow God is with you, at work and revealed in a new way in this experience.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that God wills suffering or pain. Nor that any of us will ever fully understand the mystery of suffering. Nor that you need to look at every difficulty as God’s will. Some suffering should be avoided, lessened, or combated: treatable illnesses, abusive marriages, unhealthy work situations, dysfunctional sexual relationships.

Nonetheless, Ciszek understood that God invites us to accept the inescapable realities placed in front of us. We can either turn away from that acceptance of life and continue on our own, or we can plunge into the “reality of the situation” and try to find God there in new ways. Obedience in this case means accepting reality.

— James Martin, S. J., The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, p. 282-283.

What We Need Is More Life

Let us in all the troubles of life remember that our one lack is life — and what we need is more life — more of the life-making presence in us making us more, and more largely alive. When most oppressed, when most weary of “life,” as our unbelief would phrase it, let us remember that it is, in truth, the inroad and presence of death we are weary of. When most inclined to sleep, let us rouse ourselves to live.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Second Series, quoted in Knowing the Heart of God, edited by Michael Phillips, p. 21

How to Get Over Being a Victim

The truest way to give up being a victim is to give up our need for revenge. One of the most hidden dynamics in any victim situation is the search for revenge. We are in a power struggle where the way to get back at someone is to hurt ourselves. As children, when we did not get what we wanted, we sometimes threw tantrums and hurt ourselves. We felt rejected, so we did something to get revenge.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 95

Courage Is Contagious.

Rising strong changes not just you, but also the people around you. To bear witness to the human potential for transformation through vulnerability, courage, and tenacity can be either a clarion call for more daring or a painful mirror for those of us stuck in the aftermath of the fall, unwilling or unable to own our stories. Your experience can profoundly affect the people around you whether you’re aware of it or not.

— Brené Brown, Rising Strong, p. 10

Not Yet

God’s gift to Abraham was the promise that his descendants would teach the world what it means to live in the presence of God. Abraham’s reciprocal gift to God was that he believed Him. In spite of everything that argued to the contrary three thousand years ago, Abraham gave God the benefit of the doubt. That is what I take that crucial verse in Genesis to mean. He believed that what should be, but was not, one day would be. And because Abraham’s lineal and spiritual descendants took up his implicit theology of “not yet,” much of that vision has come about, and everywhere I look, people are striving to bring the rest of it into reality. This world is still not the world God intended it to be. Some human beings have made it worse and continue to do so, while others have made and are making it better. I am sustained by the words of Martin Luther King Jr., quoting Theodore Parker, an abolitionist who died in 1860: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” And it bends toward honesty and toward forgiveness and toward generosity. The heirs of Abraham, whether they identify themselves as Jews, Christians, or Muslims, honor Abraham’s memory by sharing his faith that the world we live in is not yet what God meant it to be, and by working to bring about the day when what should be, will be.

— Harold S. Kushner, Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, p. 168-169.

Restful Joy, Joyful Rest

Throughout my experiment I noticed that whenever I felt worried or pressured about whether I was happy enough, joy eluded me. It is not the way of joy to be grasped. Rest is like unclenching a fist, letting go of the need to do or to know, in order that receiving might take the place of grasping. If we aren’t willing to rest, God will arrange rests for us, because He doesn’t want us to rush through life but to enjoy it.

One interesting property of happiness is that we cannot be happy without knowing it. We can be many other things — rich, blessed, lucky, loved — and not know it, but to be happy we must know it. The awareness is a part of the happiness. Rest is an opportunity to become aware of joy. We need sleep because we need dreams, and we need rest because we need daydreams.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 12

Motivation, Not Punishment

If you feel bad about anything at all and blame it on someone else, what can you then do to make yourself feel better?

Not a thing. The act of blame renders you powerless, which is the internal source of all the frustration, anger, and resentment that go with blame. More important, blame strips painful emotions of their primary function, which is to motivate corrective behavior. As we saw in the previous chapter, pain — physical and psychological — is part of an alarm network that evolved to keep you safe and well. The function of guilt, shame, and anxiety is not to punish you. Their primary function is to motivate behavior that heals, corrects, or improves.

For example, guilt is about violating your values; the motivation of guilt is to act according to your values. Acting according to your deeper values is the only thing that resolves guilt. Shame is about failure and inadequacy; the motivation is to reevaluate, reconceptualize, and redouble efforts to achieve success, or if the failure is in attachment, to be more loving or compassionate. Those are the only things that will resolve shame. Anxiety is a dread of something bad occurring that will exceed or deplete resources; the motivation is to learn more about what might happen and develop plans to cope with it. Blame, denial, and avoidance might give momentary relief of guilt, shame, and anxiety but will soon worsen them by blocking their natural motivations.

— Dr. Steven Stosny, Soar Above, p. 39

God Speaks.

I realize that many dear followers of Christ have been taught that God only speaks to his sons and daughters through the Bible. The irony of that theology is this: that’s not what the Bible teaches! The Scriptures are filled with stories of God speaking to his people — intimately, personally. Adam and Eve spoke with God. As did Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. So did Noah, Gideon, Aaron, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ananias, and the apostle Paul. On and on the examples go.

— John Eldredge, Moving Mountains, p. 142-143.