Not long ago, talking to a good friend, I expressed some concerns about a range of difficulties, which had unexpectedly arisen in my workplace. Such problems tend to make one tense and threaten to dampen one’s enthusiasm. The friend then reminded me of an important distinction, which not only gave a new perspective on the particular challenges, but also helped me to deal with them more positively and constructively
Looking intently at me as I was telling him what we were encountering, his response was unexpected:” these are good problems”, he said, “because they are problems of life”. He went on to explain that one can encounter two kinds of problems – those that signal life and those that signal demise and death. The “problems of life” are so named because, although they may appear as obstacles, which seem to block our way and undermine our faith, they actually arise from the fact that things are developing, that there is new life; such difficulties turn out to be hidden doors which eventually open up to new, liberating discoveries. In short, they are problems, which carry the seeds of fresh life and opportunity.
In contrast, the “problems of death” are so named because they signal doom and destruction. These are difficulties that we experience as dark forces, which sweep us along in their strong current - Like an unhealthy addiction that can get the better of us and gradually wear away the core of our humanity.
Reflecting on my friend’s words, it dawned on me that very many things, which seem to be insurmountable problems, have the potential to become life giving – depending on how we view them and engage with them. In fact, to see properly, to gain the right perspective, is often the key to transforming our problems into life giving forces.
In his book on the contribution of the Mystics in our age, Frank Tuoti has a wonderful chapter titled “The Gifts of Night” in which he describes what happens when this gift of knowledge, this right perspective is given. He articulates it metaphorically as an experience in which our spiritual taste buds are purified. Then “the problems that once almost totally absorbed us no longer usurp our time, for we have discovered that most of these problems either take care of themselves or were never really substantial problems to begin with”.
Relating this to the suggestion of my friend, problems that seem to wear us down can be transformed, can become avenues to new life, pure gifts of the night – what is given in darkness, can become the harbinger of dawn. Lent is the ideal time to discover again this profound truth, and to keep remembering that Jesus endured the cross…for what?...for the sake of the joy that lay ahead of him (Hebrew 12:2) .