How easy it is for us to trip up. A respected Christian friend tells me we can tell the quality of our walk with God by the extent to which we suffer for it. I am alarmed. My face watches her lips move, as she tries perhaps to explain, but all my attention shifts inward, searching for something that might be labelled suffering for my faith.
My ordinary life with its usual stress and distress doesn’t quite measure up. So I am temporarily derailed. I have been on a relatively smooth track recently, oiled by a newly discovered take on the the concept of faith. Faith has come to mean the opposite of worry, working-out-what-next, and telling God what needs to happen and how. If I really have faith, I don’t need to do all that any more.
Except now my Achilles heel of self-condemnation has yawned, stretched and got dressed for work. Once again I have to force myself not to let it in. To trust that God is in control and He may be using this to keep me honest.
A friend once told me that she feels closest to God when things are going well. At the time, I was surprised and almost shocked. I had, I realised, associated closeness to God with crying out to him in adversity. I simply did not associate him with joy or success or any of the stuff that feels good. I thought that true piety equals pain. Painful pain.
When challenged to audit my life for suffering, I began to leave the secret sunny garden of childlike faith I had recently found to return to the cold damp cloister where discomfort demonstrates you’re on the Way.
Because of my earlier ideas about God this felt right, even if it was disappointing. Even if it seemed to reopen the wound of anxiety. Here was a truly enormous thing for me to worry about.
But then I remembered who I’m meant to be looking at. Not myself. Not even my pious sister. She may not be wrong. But she may not have the whole picture.