“We say God uses all things for good, but we don’t know how to participate in that process of redemption because we can’t acknowledge that we are in pain, that our beliefs are shaken and that the way we think, feel and live is changed. We are unable to get to the good that God works because we cannot face the bad that life brings.” – Adam McHugh, The Listening Life
Why do I do this work? It’s so tiring and requires so much. And there’s so much to fix. Seriously, who would choose to do this day in day out, analyzing and assessing people’s problems, weighing the meaning of sentences and arguments and trying to improve them?
I love editing, but it’s honestly crazy-making. And even if I finish my part, so much is always left undone, unsaid. And the pain of the work remains.
And is anything really any clearer in the end? Maybe the bigger question is, does any of this work really matter?
It seems obvious that it does. And yet, when I’m so exhausted, it can’t be worth such struggle.
Recently, we had to repair a broken pipe under the house. We’d have liked to ignore it, but had no choice. It seemed wiser not to do the work—no treasure chests found buried in the yard, avoiding it seemed the expedient answer. But the trouble would have remained. And the fear and anxiety would only have increased.
Similar with relationship struggles, I often want to ignore the issues underneath—forfeit understanding and comfort. But the expedient answer is really no answer. The only thing to do is reject the laziness and fear and work to get at the real trouble.
With any struggle that arises, not facing the work required, we won’t improve or benefit from it. At writing, if I aspire to say the vital things too long unsaid, and develop the skill and wisdom that can inspire people, there’s nothing to do but to face the struggle and work.
As with the present editing struggle, the question to ask is, What will I wish I’d done?
Oh, bravery is needed. But who thinks of it?
We don’t want to say we lack bravery to face our struggles because it only adds to the hurt. And we fear pain. Who wants to risk time and resources without any assurance of success? We all know the hurt of multiplied struggles. We’ve all experienced loss upon loss, and we know how risky our work can be. But in life, as in writing, processing happens as you keep going, keep risking, keep fighting.
Processing is progress. If only we can admit that we’re struggling.
Who isn’t facing troubles? And what trouble can patience not overpower? The happiest lives didn’t become so by avoiding struggle. What meaning could the world know without the knowledge of suffering in bravery?
When a pipe needs fixing, somehow the money arrives. When relationship struggles crop up, there’s time to listen. Can I trust that similarly in book work, the stamina and hope to believe will be found and lives will be changed—my own included—despite and even because of the struggle?
Do we seek our true work in learning to receive whatever comes with openness and grace? And will it not bring us the true treasure we seek? Can we trust, even now, that all good things come as we learn to give all we have to the struggles that truly matter?
Practicing this trust may be the way receiving all things is opened.
Maybe it’s only through such perseverance that anything truly great can be brought into the world.
But I don’t know. I’ve only begun to listen to this through struggle. With strengthened endurance, to begin to respond to it. But it seems only in struggling to listen and listening to struggle—to our own and our neighbors’—do we learn this bravery.
I know this fatigue and anxiety are temporary. And learning endurance is worth the struggle. Regardless of any struggle, if we aim to express love—to ourselves and to others—it can make all the difference. Can I aim to be one who takes time to listen to what our struggles are saying—even when they seem not to be saying anything?
This is the skill I want. For this is how I’ll remain focused on what really matters. And for this, I will continue on until I am blessed with a tested bravery.
“When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.'” – Genesis 32:25-26
For the Higher Purpose,