Over the past few days I’ve had several conversations with different people centering around how difficult things are for them.  “That’s how my life is,” said one friend.  “My life is just crazy right now,” said another.  “Why is my life so hard?” asked a third.
In each conversation, I’ve said almost the same thing.   It’s something I’m convinced of.  It’s not just you.  Life is hard.  Everyone’s life.
Whether it’s that you’ve lost your job, or your kid has cancer, or your house burned down, or you’ve lost a loved one very suddenly, or you have more month than you have money, or you’re flunking out of school, or you are lonely, or you are simply exhausted and overwhelmed by responsibilities–whatever your struggle is, it’s hard.  We all have struggles.  If there is someone you know who you think has it easy, rest assured that you just don’t know what their struggle is.
One of our clients, who has dealt with issues surrounding drugs, and child custody, and prison, and now a terminal illness in his family, said, “I know they always say that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle but He must think my shoulders are awfully strong.”  I read an excellent reflection on that sentiment last week, but what I told him was that I don’t believe God sends us these trials.  I know it’s a source of comfort to many to believe that whatever they’ve suffered is part of God’s plan, but I don’t.  God helps us deal with them, absolutely, helps us find blessings in them, uses them to help us grow–but the trials themselves?  They are the product of the fallen world in which we live.
The world is fallen, and life is hard, but we need to remember it is also beautiful and good.  Believing the lie that we are the only ones having this hard life fills us with resentment and blinds us to the good and beauty all around us.
On Sunday Father Jerry talked about the sycamore tree in the Gospel, and how it’s a beautiful tree, but very messy.  “Like life,” he said.
Let’s learn a lesson from the messy sycamore tree, described thus in Wikipedia:  “An American sycamore tree can often be easily distinguished from other trees by its mottled exfoliating bark which flakes off in great irregular masses, leaving the surface mottled, and greenish-white, gray and brown. The bark of all trees has to yield to a growing trunk by stretching, splitting, or infilling; the sycamore shows the process more openly than many other trees. The explanation is found in the rigid texture of the bark tissue which lacks the elasticity of the bark of some other trees, so it is incapable of stretching to accommodate the growth of the wood underneath, so the tree sloughs it off.”
ALL of us are having hard times.  Some trials are just more visible than others.
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