Taking life as it comes

Saturday, April 28, 2007

There is much advice on coping with what happens in life. Although we live in the present, when we look back we find that many new ideas are repetitions of past remedies considered to be outdated.

These repetitions can be answers to problems, remedies for illnesses or even fashions in housing and clothing.

Psychologists, ministers, friends and parents, to name a few categories of people, are asked to help with problems and anxieties. Trained counselors are expected to have easy answers to what we should do in difficult situations. Other qualified professionals ought to have the expertise to lead others to solve almost any concern, we think.

While attaining my psychology/counseling, religious education and spiritual direction training, I learned many variations on how to help people with dilemmas. But regardless of the coping mechanisms I have learned, I've found that solutions often boil down to the one my mom built her life around.

"You have to take life as it comes," she would say, particularly when times were stressful. People would prefer to avoid any suffering. We would rather be comfortable and instantly solve whatever is going wrong so we can get on with our lives. But aren't annoyances and hardships all part of life?

In summer when the weather becomes humid and sweltering people turn on air conditioners so quickly -- we act like it is catastrophic to be hot. I'm guilty of this! Unexpected company arrives and our routine is interrupted. We can't wait to recover our peaceful surroundings. We don't consider taking life as it comes unless it's easy and secure. People do not like messiness.

Although support groups are wonderful for those encountering special traumas, losses and other forms of emotional pain, we can only receive a certain amount of solace from others. Then we have to reach inside ourselves and find the fundamental strength to continue on. Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid a measure of suffering. God verified that truth when he sacrificed Jesus on the cross. Jesus, too, wanted to dodge the fear, rejection, loneliness and pain. However, he did not run away. Rather than escape his fate, he did what was required of him. He offered his life for the purpose it was intended. He took life as it came without trying to escape the inevitable.

Taking life as it comes can't always be pleasant, but the bad times teach us the most. Things that were drab, mundane and painful turned into pearls of beauty in dawn's penetrating sunlight. That light shows how to appreciate the darkness we've traveled through. Through suffering comes joy in the end.

I'm close to a young man who's presently living a happy and prosperous life. As I talked with him, he said, "I don't deserve all the good things that are happening to me. I'm just waiting for the dagger to fall." I suggested he ought to enjoy his good fortune and cease worrying about what may happen and not let his joy be clouded by his apprehension of the future. Echoing my mother, I said to him, "You occasionally have to take life as it comes."

We never know what tomorrow may bring, but whatever comes, we'll have God. You'll experience the good along with the bad. We shall cry as well as laugh.

Sometimes it's therapeutic to take time and experience the pain. We often push our anguish inside and pretend everything's all right when it would be better to weep. We'll never know all the answers because God is mystery. We can only trust God and, indeed, take life as it comes.

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral in Cape Girardeau.

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