One of life’s great questions centres not on what happens to us, but how we will live in and through whatever happens. We cannot change most circumstances in our lives. I am white, middle class, and I have a good education. I have not always made conscious decisions about these things.
Very little of what I have lived, in fact, has to do with what I have decided – whom I have known, where I came into the world, what personality tendencies have taken hold.
Our choice, then, often revolves around not what has happened or will happen to us, but how we will relate to life’s turns and circumstances. Put another way: Will I relate to my life resentfully or gratefully?
Think of this example: You and I have crashed into one another on the road. For me it might create not only serious injury, but also bitter resentfulness. I may drag through life, saying, “The accident changed everything. Now I am broken and life is hard.” You may suffer the same hardship, but say, “Might this moment serve as a call to another way of life? Might it be an opportunity to master something new, a chance to make my brokenness serve as a witness to others?”
The losses may be non-negotiable. But we have a choice: How do we live these losses? We are called time and again to discover God’s Spirit at work within our lives, within us, amid even the dark moments. We are invited to choose life. A key in understanding suffering has to do with our not rebelling at the inconveniences and pains life presents to us.
Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, p.12-13