Saturday, January 17, 2015

What is Good, What is Difficult

Hallie Lord wrote this piece a few days ago saying it's ok to when you have mixed feelings about pregnancy. What bravery it can take to admit within Catholic, pro-life circles that each new baby is not immediately met with joy and nothing but joy. This adds another valuable piece to the discussion on pregnancy started recently by this article discussing the importance of acknowledging the struggles of pregnancy.

Perhaps the question that most deeply reaches the root of these issues is Why are we afraid to admit that things that are the most good are often also the most difficult? It seems almost obvious that anything truly good would require sacrifice; Satan certainly does not want us to do what is good and therefore will confound our efforts in every way. Things that are bad, well, those seems to be so easy. For a reason. Don't underestimate the enemy. He is cunning. This world has been corrupted so that sin easily flourishes and those who do the will of God have an uphill battle.

I worry that some Christians hope to share the faith by portraying it as a pathway to obtaining your hearts' desires. If only you follow, Christ, they say, you will be happy! All the time! Life will be easy. Prayer and true faith will wipe away all your burdens. We have to be careful to acknowledge that while Christ is the source of joy, we are not promised earthly happiness or a lack of suffering. We have only to look at the lives of the Saints for confirmation of this. There are Saints who suffered painful diseases, the murder of spouses, the death of young children, rape, abusive marriages, and torturous deaths. If those men, women, and children, the exalted examples of faithfulness, experienced such suffering then surely Christian faith is not some magic charm that repels all bad that might befall us. I cannot imagine the Saints in their midst of their suffering would be described as "happy" in the earthly sense, but joy - oh they exuded the joy of Christ even then!

Many people ask what we need to do to attract young people to the faith. The answer is not to make faith fit effortlessly into their lives by making it easy. I drive by a church with a sign that proudly proclaims, "Like to sleep in on the weekends? We make church convenient for you!" People aren't looking for a faith that is convenient so they can go on living their lives exactly the same. They are looking for a faith that radically changes their lives and challenges them. Young people are searching for something and an easy religion that asks nothing of them doesn't fulfill that longing. They are not looking for a "safe faith". Christ said, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." A tall order, but how can we do great things of great things are not asked of us?

"Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe 

It is not love to only share part of the Gospel, the sanitized, safe little story of a God who loves us and wants us to be happy. We must authentically share the faith and in order to do so, we much acknowledge that with the joy of Christ also comes our individual crosses, some of them quite heavy. How much more powerful is it to share the stories of Christians who have suffered greatly, even died for their faith, but loved God so much through it all, than a story of a perfect little life in which Christianity was easy. I'm apt to believe that the early Christians flocked to the faith because they saw how powerful it was - people were ripped to shreds by lions in the arena for their Christian faith, and with a smile on their faces and songs on their lips! If they were looking for something safe and easy, Christianity would have been the last thing they would have chosen. They weren't looking for easy, but for Truth! How ineffective in comparison is a faith practiced by those who are blessed all their lives. That god seems nothing more than a genie, a wish-granter. How easy it must be to love a sweet, kind god who makes your life perfect! There's an appeal there, of course, but since all of us will experiencing some suffering in our lives, it's easy to lose a faith based on a god who grants earthly happiness to his faithful. That is a faith built on straw, with no basis in the scriptures. Instead, we must teach a faith built on rock.

In our faith, the faith built on Peter, Christ's rock, human life is greatly valued. A new pregnancy and a new child are always good. But not always easy. There is no reason for guilt in acknowledging that. In fact, by doing so, we are elevating human life even more - how valuable is a new life that we are willing to endure great hardship to bear it! Therein lies a truth that our Catholic ancestors knew quite well and embraced much better than we do today, that Christian life is demanding and that those very demands are what set us apart and demonstrate to those around us the greatness of our God.



  1. What a beautiful post. I just wanted to say hello and tell you how much encouragement and amazing honesty I find in your posts--both in your previous blog and in this one. I've always found your writing about fertility and loss to be the first thing I go to when someone I know has experienced a new loss or asks me for resources. Although I'm grateful to have had no known miscarriages so far (with infertility there's always the obsession and constant wondering whether you've lost a child before implantation or before a positive test,) I've always identified with something in your writing through all of our years of infertility. Somehow your writings and resources for pregnancy loss helped me to wrestle with and grieve the pregnancies I desperately longed for but couldn't have...maybe grieving them as imaginary pregnancies was more healing than just grieving the emptiness? Either way, I've always wanted to thank you for what you do and for keeping much of your past writings public. You'll never know what they've done for me. I know you don't know me, but you and your entire beautiful family are in my prayers often.

  2. Right on! Honesty about hard things can be, well, hard. Your second paragraph made me think of my favorite quote from "A League of Their Own," when Dottie is quitting the team:

    Dottie: It just got too hard.
    Coach: Hard? Of course it's hard! If it wasn't hard, anyone would do it. The hard is what makes it good!

    As Christians, somehow the good is smack dab in the middle of the hard.

  3. I think sometimes big family life is hard (I have six kids) but I try and look at the positives because I know that marriage and children are blessings, as do you. Writing about the good parts of small family life doesn't mean big families need to share their struggles, just as big families sharing their joys doesn't mean small families need to always display their struggles. And I have written about some of the struggles (always abstaining in nfp, financial worries, emotional needs, etc) but honestly I try not to because my kids will be able to read it one day and I don't want them to feel unloved. Blogs are usually just highlight reels, like getting a Christmas card with a newsletter full of all the highs from the past year. Nobody wants to read a negative, complaining, put-all-the-trash out on the front lawn kind of post everyday, right? I think most of us are just trying to be thankful for the hand we've been dealt, and focus on the positives. I pray for you and your babies all the time.