“Today I was trying to figure out why life seems so hard,” my friend texted. “So I asked Google.”
Google, unfortunately, did not offer up any satisfying answers, which is why my friend texted me. And while I didn’t have an answer to “why,” I did agree that we all want to know what to do when things seem hard. How to deal. How not to get submerged in the waves of life’s challenges.
I’m still learning this day by day in my own life, but there is one answer I keep coming back to—because it helps me every time. The way I deal when life seems hard comes down to one word: gratitude.
Let me back up a little. Shortly after college, when I was suddenly faced with lots of things in my life that seemed very challenging, I asked a friend about this feeling of drowning in a sea of problems. How could I pull my head above the surface when every single thing seemed so incredibly hard?
She offered me these wise words: Life only seems hard when we think we’re being asked to give more than we’ve been given.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? A friendship seems hard when we feel that we don’t have enough patience or love to give. An assignment for work or school seems hard if we feel that we don’t have the intelligence, insight, or even discipline to complete it. And prayer seems hard when we think we’re out of inspiration, or don’t have enough spiritual understanding.
This is where Christian Science comes to the rescue. Because what I’ve learned through my study of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is that God has enabled us to do whatever is being demanded of us, because God is the one, infinite source, and His children, including each of us, are His limitless expression. I love the way Mary Baker Eddy explains this in Science and Health: “Man is God’s reflection, needing no cultivation, but ever beautiful and complete” (p. 527).
In the middle of things feeling hard, we’re not likely to think of ourselves as beautiful and complete. More like totally inadequate! And yet, the recognition that we express all the goodness of God right now is powerful—and it’s a form of gratitude. In acknowledging that we’re not struggling to bear up under life’s burdens, but that we are whole, strong, and infinitely capable, we’re thanking God for what He is and the way He made us. We’re thanking God for doing enough, being enough—and also for having actually given us what we need to be successful.
This kind of gratitude isn’t positive thinking. It’s based on the spiritual law of our God-derived capacities. It’s a prayer—and a powerful one. Actually, I saw just how powerful a few weeks ago, when someone I love very much needed a lot of my prayer, patience, and love over a period of several days.
About 48 hours into helping her, things started to feel hard. Too hard. I didn’t know how I could keep giving so much; I was especially drained of patience, which was what she seemed to need the most.
And then a new idea dawned on me. I thought back to my friend’s words about things feeling hard when we think we’re being asked to give more than we’ve been given, and I suddenly knew that I didn’t need more patience. I didn’t even need for things to get easier. All I needed to do was thank God for giving me not just what I thought I needed, but even more than I needed. I thanked God for being infinite, and for showing me that I express Him infinitely.
It was like turning on a faucet. I felt flooded with patience, grace, even joy. I was so grateful to be able to help this person I love so much, and I was grateful to God for showing me that I had what it took to love her even more unselfishly.
It’s a holy thing to experience God’s qualities welling up in us and pouring out in a way that almost seems effortless. Feeling close to God this way strengthens us to meet the challenges and reminds us that even when life does seem hard, God has given us what we need to go forward.
Originally appeared online in the teen column: UpFront - February 17, 2017