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We are in a season of transition at our congregation; but then, any growing congregation is always in a season of transition. In fact, the world in which we live is in constant transition.
It's easy to get discouraged when there's so much transition and change. "Why can't we just do it the way we've always done?" "I just can't find the time." "I have too much to do; I'm too busy." We've all said these words.
But the tendency to think negatively about the future must be resisted at all costs. Throughout the church's history, some of its greatest leaders have spoken of the need for hope and the absolute impossibility of Christian despair.
In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, reminds us that it is characteristic of the spirit of God to build up, to console and to give hope even in the darkest and most confusing of times. Conversely, what Ignatius calls the "enemy" is known "to cause gnawing anxiety, to sadden and to set up obstacles.
The thoughtful Christian, counsels Ignatius, seeks not only to understand the workings of this "enemy," but also to work against the temptation to follow the path leading to despair.
Discouragement may be a natural human emotion in the face of difficulties, but despair is rightly seen by the great spiritual writers as the antithesis of the Christian message.
In 1961, Thomas Merton wrote in his book "New Seeds of Contemplation" that despair is, ultimately, a form of pride that chooses misery instead of accepting the mysterious designs of God's plans and acknowledging that we are not capable of fulfilling our destinies by ourselves. Despair places our own limited perspective above God's.
So, when change seemingly overwhelms us, when transitions add another layer to what appears to be an already too busy life, reconsider and regroup. Decide what's really important; discard the unessential items that in six weeks, six months, six years will be of no value. Kick over the obstacles and adopt a "can-do" attitude.
And, above all, pray. Pray that God will give you what you need to make it. Pray that God's will, not yours, be done. Nothing beats a failure like a try!