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.
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.
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.
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.
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: