Did you know that if you try to help a struggling butterfly emerge from the prison of his cocoon, his wings will be permanently deformed? As a butterfly struggles, fluid is forced into its wings so they stretch and open, allowing them to fly. But butterflies are not the only creatures who must struggle before they have the ability to fly; God uses our difficult circumstances to transform us into saints who are free to soar into the very heart of God.
In theory, dedicated disciples of Christ understand people do not become saints by eating chocolates and watching mind-numbing movies all day long. A self-indulgent lifestyle does not challenge us to grow spiritually. However, when we are hit by real hardship, most of us do not embrace our cross with joy. We usually complain and feel sorry for ourselves.
Even Saints Complained
There is a hilarious story about St. Teresa of Ávila which illustrates this truth. The details often vary, but the gist of the story is that as St. Teresa traveled to one of her convents, she fell off a horse while crossing a cold stream. The current was so strong, she lost her footing and was almost carried away. When Teresa complained about the constant trials in her life, the Lord replied, “Do not complain, daughter, for it is ever thus that I treat My friends.”
Witty Teresa responded with her typical sense of humor, “Ah, Lord, it is also on that account that Thou hast so few!” In more modern English, she yelled at the Lord, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.”
I love this story. Every time I repeat it, I end up grinning because I can identify with Teresa.
Friends of Jesus
I was a convert when I married my husband and thought I lived a very devout, disciplined, holy life. My honest desire was to become a saint. Yet unbeknownst to me, buried deep in my soul was a tendency to control everyone and everything combined with a fear of really letting go and trusting in God.
So I did everything on my own, relying solely on myself, not on God to get through every day. I think my mantra was, “Fine, I will do it on my own!” I am such a tough cookie, it took nine unplanned pregnancies and babies, poverty, a depressed husband, and unrelenting chores on a small family farm to finally bring me to my knees in exhaustion before God could show me that I was not led by the Holy Spirit. I was shocked when I discovered I relied on my own strength and NOT on Jesus.
I have slowly learned to find meaning and hope by using difficulties to come closer to Christ. He never answers our desperate pleas for help right away but uses the “winepress” (or I prefer to say the meat grinder) to expose areas in our lives which need healing. God is more interested in creating saints who repeatedly die to self and rise in new life through Christ’s power than in giving His children an easy life.
After years of complaining, my husband and I finally understand how to look at hardships through the lens of faith. God works in the lives of His friends to sanctify them through hardships. Our journey into the heart of the Father through the Son and Holy Spirit, within His mystical body, is what helps us sustain one another through all the hardships, pain and blows which often seem to reign down on us more heavily than we can bear. Yet when we cooperate with God, our hard times bring us to repentance, open our hearts to healing and bring us closer to our loving Father. I have learned how to be joyful in the midst of hardships by dwelling in the love of God.
So I always say, bring on the suffering, if this is the only way Christ can transform me, one of His friends, into His loving Presence on Earth.
Copyright 2018 Melanie Jean Juneau