“Life is pain.” I love that movie! What, you don’t know the movie “The Princess Bride?!” I weep for you! The whole quote is worth recalling: “Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Seriously, M. Scott Peck, in his bestselling book “The Road Less Traveled,” starts off with this: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
OK, so life is difficult, life is pain, and the key to overcoming this reality is to transcend it. Got it! But how do we do that transcending? The key here is not simply the acknowledgement of reality (though that is absolutely important), it is the then moving on to making peace with reality and then transcending this reality to a life of joy. I know, easier said than done.
There is a source of motivation that can move us beyond the traps of the mundane to keep us motivated to doing the hard work of life, and embracing a sufficiently lofty vision of Truth is absolutely essential for me to stay motivated to move toward that Vision of Life no matter how hard life becomes, and, let’s face it, life can become pretty hard at times!
In our Gospel Lesson today, the Lord Jesus gives us two pictures of people seeking this lofty vision for life: One a Pharisee and the other a sinful woman. The Pharisee seeks to follow God by obeying every intricate detail of the Law and he invites the Lord to his house for a meal. The sinful woman, hearing the Lord will be at this house, goes and washes His feet with her tears and anoints His feet with ointment and kisses His feet. When the Pharisee sees this woman doing this, he is indignant. Read the whole story in Luke 7:36-50.
Notice the story the Lord tells the Pharisee: And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Luke 7:40-43
The Lord lays out the path for us to see a sufficiently motivating vision for life that can keep us going in the face of the difficulties of Life.
First, He shows us that an honest evaluation of our need for Him keeps us motivated. If I am blind to my own serious need for repentance, for spiritual healing, I will blame all my troubles on the world around me. It’s not my fault after all. But, if I see only my own sins, and refrain from comparing myself to others and excuse-making, then I can be motivated to seek God’s mercy all my life.
Next, He shows us that a response of love and service reveals my true desire. We can see ourselves as needing spiritual healing and say “What’s the use. I am so sick nothing can help me.” Ah, the power of human pride to say “Not even God Himself can save me!” But we can choose to see all God has done to heal us and react with loving gratitude and service. This reveals our willingness to be motivated by that lofty vision of what God intended for us all!
Finally, He shows us that when I am honest about my need for Him, when I react to that need with love and service, I am truly forgiven and set on the path to a salvation from the dead-end vision of the world gripped by perpetual pain and difficulty. I am given the grace to “pass through” the difficulties of life rather than always seeking to be “rescued from” these troubles.
Today, is life difficult? Instead of succumbing to the despondency of challenging times, allow these times to motivate you to an honest confession of your need for God and His grace, react to these times with loving gratitude and service, and watch as grace and strength are given to you as the Lord says to you today “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”