“Life is difficult.” This first sentence of M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled is startling. Peck goes on to say that this truth, once grasped makes life simple. Probably an exaggeration to make a point, but the point makes sense. If you start out thinking life should be easy, you are disturbed and upset when it is not. If you start out thinking life is difficult, the difficulty can become easier to bear. Yes, this thing, this event in my life is awkward, annoying, gruesome, horrifying. But it’s not like I was singled out to be made miserable when almost everyone else has it easy. I can see embracing this truth could make you more inclined to gratitude, to appreciate what is good rather than angrily critique what is not perfect.
I am not totally shocked by the concept that life starts out difficult. But I have often felt the expectation that it should become easy. Such is the notion of progress we’ve all grown up with. Technology is getting better and better, so life should be getting easier and easier. A new software comes along, we’re excited. Wow, in just a few clicks we can get something that took hours by typing before. But when something comes up that is still complicated? They didn’t think through this part. I hope the next version makes this part easy.
In the spiritual life, there is a similar view. God has saved us, brought us into his kingdom; if we really understood the Gospel, if we just have enough faith, if we learn to pray correctly, read Scripture correctly, do something else correctly, all should be well. No major difficulties left in life since God is with us.
But in the implications of the Gospel, in the calling of Jesus to die to ourselves, take up the cross daily as we follow, there is a clear reminder that life with God still remains difficult, even despite all the ways he has blessed us. He blesses in part, and leaves us to wait, to follow through awkwardness and pain, to come to him with our heart agonies that may still remain agonies after we pray, the answer “not yet, not yet. My grace is sufficient for you.”