Study: Reflect back on life – what have been some major obstacles that you faced? How did you find the strength and wisdom to overcome them?
Pray: What current obstacles are before you right now? Bring these to prayer and ask the Lord for guidance and perseverance.
Serve: Is there someone in your life who is facing a difficult time in life right now? How might you be able to offer support?
M. Scott Peck, author of the classic personal growth book The Road Less Traveled, begins his text with a simple statement:
Life is difficult.
If we assume this point – that there are times in our lives that are difficult – then we can gain a clear perspective on those moments which confront us with struggle. We recognize that challenge is indeed a part of life, and how we respond to difficulty shapes and defines who we are.
Difficulty poses a common trap. When life challenges us we may be tempted to avoid the situation altogether. It may (falsely) appear that it is easier to stay away from the problem – to run away, hide, pretend it is not there, or direct our attention on something else.
When this happens we may choose an (apparently) easier path. This is the direction of least resistance; we do not seem to experience the stress or unease we felt before. Yet this feeling does not last for long. Sooner or later, the problem we attempted to avoid returns, usually greater than before.
In the end we are confronted with two crucial steps. First we must recognize the situation (life is difficult). Second we face the struggle and choose an appropriate response. Sounds like fun, right?
The Gospel today is clearly not what we call a “warm-fuzzy” sort of reading. Luke makes it clear that a life of faith will be marked with difficulty. Pain and suffering will confront us from a variety of perspectives throughout our lives.
The Cross of Christ is our model for this brutal truth. We know that there is hope and resurrection awaiting us, but we also know that the path to eternal life may also demand steadfast patience and sacrifice. Indeed, the Lord asks no less than our very lives.
Yet while this reading presents us with a sort of blunt honesty, it also provides us with a powerful hope. God will not abandon us in our weakness to journey alone. In our moments of struggle the Lord walks with us, offering strength and guidance to help us on the way…even when life is truly difficult.