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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

When the Only Way Forward Is Through

We all have times when the way forward seems difficult, frightening, or even impossible. What lies before us (choose your image) is a raging river, a towering mountain, a dark abyss. Perhaps you have suffered a major financial setback… or you’ve gotten some bad news from your doctor… or a relationship you treasured suddenly ends… or you are exhausted from being a caregiver… or a loved one dies… or you feel totally abandoned by God. You sense you can’t go forward, and so you begin looking for a way around this thing, or under it, or over it. You might even be tempted to just stay put or even to turn back. But sooner or later you realize: the only way forward is through.

(Photo by Sebastian Voortman – Pexels)

Writer Max Lucado says that the word through is one of God’s favorite words. Scripture tells us that “God gets us through stuff,” he says. For example, God got the Israelites through the Red Sea (Ex. 14:22), through the wilderness (Deut. 29:5), and through the dark valley (Ps. 23:4). God got Mary and Joseph through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem through their flight into Egypt, and through their trek back to Nazareth. God got Jesus through his public ministry, through his frustrations with his apostles, through his struggles with his enemies, and even through his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death.

(Photo by Pixabay)

God gets us through stuff by reminding us that the way through will not necessarily be painless. And that’s okay. In fact it can be a good thing. Why do I say that? Because life presents us with many examples of pain leading to success, joy, newness, and life itself. As children, maybe we saw the pain of doing our homework lead us to success in school. Later in life we experienced or witnessed how labor pains produced a brand new life, a child. Or we saw how the pain of preparing for an athletic competition ended in victory. Or the pain of a knee replacement eventually led to carefree strolling. Or how the pain of a disagreement could eventually lead to the joy of a deeper relationship. Pain is not always an enemy. Often it can be the midwife of new life, new love.

God gets us through stuff also by sending us “angels” to help us. I’m not talking about heavenly angels (although I’m not dismissing them either). But I’m talking here about human angels who come to us in all kinds of forms: a supportive loved one, a good friend, a competent doctor, a caring nurse, a wise spiritual director, a loving child, a thoughtful co-worker, a kind neighbor, a prayerful parish community, and even a faithful pet. Or God sends an “angel” in the form of a song, a book, a scripture passage, or a “piece of beauty” in the natural world. But we must be ready to admit we need help and humble enough to accept it when it is offered.

Sometimes a child can be an “angel”… (Photo by Bess Hamiti – Pexels)

And finally, there’s one more thing that helps us to cross raging rivers, climb high mountains, and venture into the dark abyss: The belief that God is always bringing about good. God can’t help it. It’s God’s very nature to continuously bring forth goodness, to always create more beauty, to forever pour out unending love. God is powerful, imaginative, and loving enough to bring about good—even from our pain and sorrow, our seemingly hopeless situations, and from the tangled messes of our lives. That’s why, when the only way forward is through, we can take that first step, trusting not in ourselves but in our Beloved and Bountiful God.

For reflection:

What have been some of the “rivers, mountains, or abysses” in your life that you have had to go through? What helped you to move forward?

Have you ever helped someone else through a really difficult time? If so, how did you help?

Today’s video is “Shoulders” performed by “For King and Country.” Maybe the song’s refrain can be our mantra for today as we say to God, “My help is from YOU!”

I gladly welcome below your comments, additions, and observations on today’s reflection:

18 Responses

  1. thanks again for you meaningful way to make each one of us close to the Lord .Each one has challenges you call them” going through… and the examples you put there … real ones… the video also very good… and the questions are challenging ones .. keep on this apostolate… it is helpful to many although we don’t write frequently Br. Juan

  2. 37 years ago, I remember writing to my dear cousin, Sr Wendy Beckett ( you may have known her) telling her that I was extremely blessed.with a loving husband and 5 beautiful children. Very soon afterwards our 19 year old daughter was killed in a motor car accident. We were all devastated . Just 4 months later we were blessed with the birth of twin grandsons. What God took away He gave back in abundance. Now I have 6 great granddaughters!

  3. Flo on October 25, 2021 at 6:42 am

    Fantastic! I’m so happy to receive your lovely sunflowers, Sister Melannie, and to know that you are well and that you continue to send out such beautiful sunflowers that brightens so many days. Thank you for your kindness. Be well!

  4. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    Sr. Melannie, I really like your image of pain as a midwife. Your blog is just what I needed this morning. Thank you!

  5. Good morning. I treasure hearing from you on Monday mornings. I too like the image of pain as a midwife. Your ideas of how we respond to facing difficult things gives me much to meditate on.

  6. Going through my Dad’s illness over several
    months, it was the seemingly little things that helped to endure the day to day. The woman I didn’t know in the hospital chapel who prayed with me, the desk attendant at the long term care facility that greeted me with heart emojis, the big X in the clouds. All sent by God who brings forth love & goodness.

  7. Dear Sister,
    Your blog gave new meaning to the word THROUGH. I really like the image of pain as a midwife. Thank you for your inspiration!!

  8. This reflection sent me to the dictionary to review the meaning of “through”. I didn’t realize it functions as a preposition, adverb and adjective! I have often thought of “through” as meaning done, stop, enough! As in “I’m through with this (fill in the blank…difficulty, pain, suffering, problem…). And sure enough, one of the definitions of “through” is given as “washed up, finished.” Thanks, Melannie, for reminding us that our good God will always see us through, even when we think we’re through!

  9. Sister,
    Always appreciate how you tie in your song to your message. Monday’s gift is hearing from you!

  10. Thank you for such a hopeful message today. I experienced this grace over the weekend.
    Here is a good song by Carrie Newcomer called, The Only Way Through is In, that I thought you and your audience would enjoy and connect with on your theme. Just copy and paste in your browser.

  11. Thank you Sr. Melannie. I think today’s blog was directed to me. In almost 82 years of life and 65 years of marriage there has been a multitude of “throughs”. As I age, health issues for both my husband and I are definitely another “through”. Thanks for reminding us that God is always on the other side of “through”.

  12. Sister,
    What can I say, you give me what I need. I have had alot of physical pain for now many
    months and I do try to take one day at a time but sometimes that is even difficult. I needed you blog today. At times I feel that the Lord is silent to my crys. I usually pull your blog up first thing Monday morning at work but am unable to write back so even if it is late now I wanted you to know that it touched my heart and the song too was beautiful. Thank you for your thoughts. Remember me I am your Benedictine Oblate friend from Pittsburgh.

  13. Just read this yesterday & today I am asking prayers for my grand nephew James who is in the hospital on oxygen. If you’re reading this, please offer some prayers up for this darling 2 year old boy. Thank you

  14. This brought to mind one of my favorite verses-“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” I learned this when I lost my job after many years. The place I ended up was one of the greatest blessings in my life. Thank you for finding ways to touch us with your gift, Sister. I look forward to your seeds of wisdom every week.

  15. I recently lost my husband of 47 years on September 6, 2021 (Labor Day). God has taken me through many medical trials (surgeries) and I have always been amazed how strong I have been. It’s not my strength that carries me through, it is God’s strength. I was married to Dan 47 years and we dated 5 years, so that is a history of 52 years together and we received so many blessing from our God. I know Dan is truly alive, up in Heaven with God and all the people who passed before him. I thank God every day for taking him in to his eternal kingdom. Bless you for this wonderful reading on getting “through” things in our lives.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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