Friday, February 23, 2007


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A personal crisis is the impetus for an exploration of faith and spirituality for some people; chronic illness can be a real test for others of us. If you're a good person and follow the teachings of your belief system, what does it say about you and your beliefs if you still suffer? Ultimately, maintaining your beliefs when times are tough comes down to a matter of faith.

When I was in college, my mom's best friend died of a brain tumor. She was a good person, one of the best. She had two sons close to my age who needed her. The pain of her loss brought my mom to the precipice of a serious crisis of faith. She still hasn't fully recovered. At the time, I couldn't understand why the loss shook her so deeply as to cause her to question her core beliefs. Honestly, I thought she was being a tad overdramatic.

Of course, hard times don't always pull people away from their beliefs. Sometimes it draws them in. I always thought it was, I'm sorry to say, weakness that brought people to (or back to) religion in times of crisis. Now I'm not so sure. It is easy to be smug when life is sunshine and roses. When it's not so grand, the need to connect with something larger and deeper than yourself can take on a new importance.

My mom still has not resumed her former spiritual practices. At this point, I don't think she probably ever will. Maybe her experience brought her clarity on what she really believes. Or maybe she's still mad at God. All I know is that I no longer feel justified in judging her choice the same way. I've been spiritually inactive for 10 years now, and I didn't stray for any reason as significant as hers.

I personally don't think I believe that God makes you face hard times to force spiritual growth. But I do think it would be a waste if my health crisis didn't at least give me pause about ignoring my faith. It was easy to accept what I've been taught when things were going according to plan. But this difficult period has put a spotlight on an area of my life where my habits have been lacking. I now see that I've neglected my spirit. I think the least I can do for myself is to right that wrong. I don't expect to be healed or transformed, but maybe some spiritual support would make the day-to-day trials and tribulations a bit easier to cope with.

Bad things happen, often to "good" people. We can't change that, and we can't expect our "goodness" to shield us from hard times. Sometimes the best thing you can do is find strength in yourself you never knew you had and just keep swimming.

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