Uncovering Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of The West #4 – Courage And Grace In Times Of Hardship (Special Easter Edition)

One of the things that makes humanity so great is our ability to overcome. There are often times when we shoulder incredible burdens, when we face the most difficult of challenges, when we climb the highest, steepest mountains. We are subject to pain and suffering, but that is part of human life. It is essential to growth, to build more resilient human beings who can bear not only their own burdens, but aid others in carrying theirs. While it may be a difficult task to accomplish, it is finding courage and grace in times of hardship that allows the human race to flourish and thrive, creating a far greater society.

Courage is not at all easy to come by. It takes strength to muster it, to manifest it into being. There are two parts of us from wherein courage takes form and burgeons out: the heart and the mind. For the most part, courage derivates from the mind. Our mentality is what determines how we navigate the journey of life, how we approach obstacles in our path and ride the waves of emotion that ebb and flow. The heart is where courage catches ablaze and burns bright, flowing out into the rest of our body. To put it into an analogy, the heart is like the furnace, where fires of hope, love, courage, and the like are all lit and burn, spreading warmth throughout the body, throughout the soul, brightening the life of a human being. But fires do not typically occur spontaneously. They must be sparked and kindled by other forces. In the case of humanity, that force is the mind. It is a powerful force that can change the way we feel, see, and act in an instant. In order to create the spark of courage, or indeed of hope or love in our hearts, we must steer our mind in the right direction.

This is not an easy thing to do, especially when we are at a challenging point in our life. Throughout each of our lives, we are guaranteed to face times of hardship. If we did not, we would not have the opportunity to learn and grow as human beings, and this would be a truly dull existence. Framing our mind to deal with these times is a task that takes focus and self-trust. The ease with which we do this depends on where we are at in our lives, what we are dealing with, and any factors that may increase the difficulty of achieving the two key factors of framing the mind.

Factors that may increase the difficulty of framing the mind to spark courage in our heart include those such as anxiety, depression, or any other mental health conditions. Stress and other factors also contribute to this. Opposite them are those that decrease that difficulty, allowing us to frame our mind more easily and effectively. Calm, peace of mind, relaxation (although not too relaxed because that can create a sense of complacency from which we can slip quickly into a world of chaos as we begin to lack awareness of our surroundings, both in a mental and physical aspect), and others can help us to quickly achieve the frame of mind we wish to enter. There are, of course, ways to transform the factors that make this task difficult into those that make it simpler. We can do this by exercising the mind in certain ways, be it through breathing exercises, meditation, closing our eyes and acknowledging our thoughts, or any other method that allows us to focus. Sometimes we need some help to find the right method/s, to order our minds. There is nothing wrong with that. It is something many of us would have done, and continue to do, and no-one should be afraid to do so.

The point we are at on our journey through life depends on the path we take, which, as I mentioned in the second edition of this series, may change as we progress. When we are at a point in our lives where things are cruising along, where we are not coming up against many obstacles, we will typically find life is easy, and be capable of framing our minds without much of a challenge. When many obstacles are in our way and we are struggling to comprehend them all, we will find that life is difficult, and struggle to frame our minds in the necessary way to deal with the blockades in our path. But then there are times when we are at a crossroads, when we come to a point where we must make a decision that will determine the trajectory of our life. These are times when we either thrive or struggle. But it is in these times that it is crucial that we are in the right frame of mind. We might be able to make a decision quickly, although this is not necessarily a good thing as it may come from a sense of complacency that has become self-defeating and has created an unhealthy lifestyle, sometimes physically, but more so mentally. When it comes to important decisions, we need to be able to take time and reflect upon the potential outcomes, but not to the point that they become overwhelming because this can significantly increase the difficulty of the decision and the time it will take to make it. Being in the right frame of mind will greatly assist us in determining which of our potential choices will lead us to the greatest outcomes for our life, both spiritually, and in our quest for growth, understanding, and leaving our mark on the world.

What we are dealing with will greatly influence how we deal with it. There is a wide-spanning array of situations and scenarios that we must navigate throughout our lives. Each individual will deal with these in at the very least a slightly different way to another. These may include things like the death of a loved one, broken family relationships, determining our career, or indeed figuring out our place in the world. There are indeed many others, but these are some of the most fundamental problems many face in their lives that take immense courage and grace to traverse.

Death touches us all at one point or another. Losing a loved one is an immensely difficult part of life to transcend. Sometimes it brings a slight sense of peace knowing that someone important to us who may have been suffering and in pain is now at peace. For Christians, we find solace in believing that when we pass from this world, our spirit moves on to the next, to the Kingdom of Heaven that God built. That same Kingdom that we all now have the opportunity to enter because of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. God the Father sent His Only Son to this Earth to live amongst us, to walk amongst us, to teach us how to live a good and faithful life, and to ultimately bear the greatest burden of all and go to His death on the Cross so that we would be saved from sin. Jesus knew the way in which He would die, He knew the events that would take place, and He fulfilled them to the last. Even though He knew He would suffer, even though he had such a heavy load to bear, He continued forward, and allowed it all to happen. Only someone possessing great courage could shoulder such a burden and keep going. Throughout His final hours, His Mother and some of His disciples kept near Him, following Him to the place where He was to die. His Mother, Mary, and disciple, John, watched on as He hung on the Cross, through to His last breath. They watched Him die, great sorrow filling their hearts. On the third day Jesus would rise, having conquered sin and death, but in the time immediately following his passing, there was great despair amongst His followers.

This is what death does: it spurns sorrow and pain in the hearts of those close to the person who has passed. I remember in the days and weeks following the passing of my grandfather, I was trying to contemplate, trying to make sense of why this had happened. Even in the days preceding his passing, I was deeply emotional and began questioning God as to why pop was not getting better, why he was fading away. I wondered why God would allow him to die now rather than giving us more time with him. It was indeed one of the most difficult times in my life. Compounded by mental health problems I was facing at the time, it resulted in a spiral that left me in pretty terrible shape. But in those weeks and months that followed, I found solace in the blessings we had been given in the months prior to pop’s passing. We had gone on a cruise to New Zealand with him only two months prior and had hosted him for a couple of weeks at our home during the bushfires just weeks before. Upon reflection, I was even more grateful to God for giving us these incredible opportunities to spend time with pop before he passed from this world to the next. It was these moments of grace that helped me to overcome the tremendous loss I had felt.

Death is, however, not the only hardship we must face in life. Broken relationships within our own families can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It is especially difficult when we value family greatly, and we do not wish to lose these connections we wish to have for the duration of our lives. Within Christianity, family is one of the most important things in existence. We will discuss the family unit in more depth in a future edition of this series, but for now let us dip our toes in the water. When we have known someone for most, if not all, of our lives, it is difficult to comprehend what life might look like without their presence. Yet when conflict arises in families, particularly with extended family (eg. cousins, uncles, etc.), it can create a divide, a breakdown of communication, and lead to a sort of alienation. This kind of scenario can be quite difficult to overcome, given it may not have been your doing (i.e. It may have been the doing or overreaction of the family member who has cut ties with you) and the action you take may affect others outside of yourself and the family member you are attempting to reconcile with. As someone who greatly values my family and does not want to see them divided to the point where they are unable to reconcile with each other, I will do most anything to ensure this does not happen. Conflict must be addressed and resolved, not permitted to hang in the air unaddressed creating tension wherever it is present. Sometimes, we must help to bear the burdens of others, just as Simon of Cyrene, a man entering Jerusalem on the day Jesus was carrying His Cross to the place where He was to be crucified, aided Jesus in carrying the Cross, helping Him to bear His heavy burden. It takes grace to help shoulder someone else’s burden, but it can be incredibly rewarding.

Determining our career and our place in the world go somewhat hand-in-hand. I suppose the former could be seen as a critical part of the latter. What we choose to do in life obviously gives us some sense of direction, some inkling of our place in society. Say, for example, one chose to be a journalist. They would be responsible for getting information and conveying it to the public to keep them informed. Choosing a career is not always easy, considering it will play a significant role in where you end up in life. Oftentimes people change careers throughout the course of their lives, thereby changing its trajectory to a degree. Our career choice is important in that it gives us some sense of purpose in life. But finding our place in the world does not simply derive from our chosen career. The way we live, our families, friends, and those who we choose to allow into our lives and maintain connections with, our talents and what we choose to do with them, all these things contribute to our greater purpose in this world. If we look back on the Biblical times of the first Holy Week, that is, Palm Sunday (when Jesus entered Jerusalem), Holy Thursday (the night of the Last Supper), Good Friday (the day He was condemned, sent to die, and crucified on the Cross to save us from sin), and Easter Sunday (the day of His Resurrection), we can see that Jesus Christ’s purpose was to take upon Himself all our sins, all our wrongdoing, and face pure torture and a tragic death so that humanity could be saved. His purpose was written from the moment Adam and Eve consumed the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Like Jesus, our purpose is also written, but it is on us to discover what it is. And we cannot do that without courage.

When we look back on the first Holy Week, on the first Easter, we can see that courage and grace were central to Jesus’ willingness to die for God’s people. That courage, however, did not come easily to those around Him. For the most part, His disciples hid, or, in the case of Simon Peter, denied him (three times) to save themselves. They were scared, and rightly so given the Pharisees were angered by how Jesus had taught the truth, the unfettered moral principles and laws laid down by God Himself, rather than the appropriated versions instilled by the Pharisees to maintain power and authority over the people. Jesus was courageous in breaking their rules. He knew He would ultimately pay for the transgressions of the people, and yet gracefully accepted this hardship. Jesus’ disciples did not necessarily possess the same degree of courage that He did, but there is no doubt they had some in following Him and, after His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, spreading God’s Word to the people. We must also remember that Jesus Himself was a human being like us. He felt pain and sorrow, particularly on the final day of His human life. He was also somewhat fearful when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His death, requesting of His Heavenly Father that He would “remove this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). But His courage and grace rose to the occasion and were with Him to His last breath, evident in that even after all that the Pharisees, the Romans and the people did to Him, He still prayed for them, saying in His final hours upon the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Like Jesus, each of us possesses the capacity for courage and grace. When we face our own times of hardship, we must ensure that we focus on what matters most, and do our best keep it intact. We must navigate to the right frame of mind via methods that work to get us there and remember that fighting fire with fire is not going to help, no matter the circumstances. The only fire we should even be thinking of is the one of courage that we need to enflame within our hearts. With just a little courage, and a little grace, we can do incredible things: we can mend broken relationships within our own families, we can bear heavy burdens, help others to shoulder their own, land a job that we have been working towards, make a new connection with someone, start a relationship, stand up and speak out for what is right; the possibilities are endless.

Holy Week, the week that changed the world, all began with grace and courage. Christ’s coming into the world started with grace and courage from His Mother Mary. The greatest sacrifice made for mankind was made through courage and grace. Every time we face hardship in our lives, let us remember the incredible courage and grace that Jesus Christ showed in the final days of His life on Earth, and reflect that in our approach to these challenging times.

Uncovering Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of The West #3 – Rules And Morality

The world is and always has been governed by rules. Although the rules currently in place may not bear exact resemblance to those that have existed at various points throughout history, they are nonetheless typically derived from the rules of the past that have worked effectively. That is not to say the rules as they currently stand are perfect. In reality, they are far from it, to varying degrees. Rules have a purpose in this world, but sometimes they need to be broken so as to allow society to progress, to get to a better place than it currently is or has been in. But in order to understand the necessity for breaking the rules, we first must explore the roots of rules and regulations themselves, and why they exist.

Since the Earth’s beginning, there has been a natural order to the world. In the view of Christianity, the world was created by God Himself over a period of six days, whereupon the seventh day He rested (this is what is referred to as the Sabbath, from the Hebrew “shabbat”, meaning “to rest from labour”). Within those first six days, He created all things: light, dark, sea, sky, sun, moon, stars, land, animals, plants, humans. Everything you see around you now came from these initial entities of creation; visually simple, but complex in nature. Now, we will discuss Creation in a future piece in this series, but we must return to the subject of this piece, rules and morality.

As mentioned, there has always been a natural order to the world in which we reside. From the beginning, God has been at the top, rulers, humans and the like in the middle, and plants and animals and any other inanimate nature at the bottom. However, order does not simply comprise of hierarchies, at least not when complex beings such as humans are involved. For order to be maintained, rules must be set in place for human beings to follow. Nowadays, these rules are typically decreed by lawmakers, democratically elected by the people of their respective nations to represent them in their respective government bodies, usually referred to as Parliaments. This differs for those countries under a dictatorship, whereby rules are set by a totalitarian leader. We will return to more modern times after we have discussed the history of rules, more so in Biblical times..

In Biblical times, rules were set down first and foremost by God, however there were certain groups who laid out rules of their own, steering society in a direction that was, in simple terms, the wrong one. In the New Testament, these were the Pharisees, a group of Jewish rabbis who we will discuss in just a moment. First, we must again go back to the very beginning, to the moment of the creation of the first human beings in Christianity, Adam and Eve. Upon their creation, Adam and Eve were told by God that they must follow one simple rule: Do not consume the fruit upon the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As we know from the first edition in this series, they chose to disobey this golden rule, thereby bringing sin, evil, into the world.

Now this was not what would be considered a necessary breaking of the rules, and thus God did not take it lightly. He cast Adam and Eve out of the paradisical Garden of Eden, leaving them to fend for themselves. This was not the only time God brought punishment upon human beings for breaking the rules. Take, for example, the Great Flood. You might be more familiar with the other name for this story: Noah’s Ark. The Great Flood was deemed necessary punishment for God’s people on Earth, given they refused to obey the rules and had thus created a chaotic environment. Now to be clear, God is not unreasonable; He did give them a chance to save themselves. However, many did not heed His warnings, and thus Noah, his family, and two of each kind of animal were saved from the Flood. Upon the ending of the Flood, God sent a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak to Noah as a sign of peace, promising never to do this again. He has, to this day, kept that promise.

But many may wonder, why would God punish His own people? The answer is, to some degree, simple. Punishment is a necessary part of maintaining and/or restoring order. Human beings must be conditioned in such a way that they will act in a socially acceptable manner. If they do not, they become isolated, cut off from society by their own hand. Now by no means am I seeking to justify harsh punishment. In fact, if a punishment is too harsh, it may paradoxically be deemed punishable itself. Reasonable, measured punishment is what human beings what is acceptable within society, and what is not. The difference between right and wrong is not always clear, yet for the right amount of order to be maintained, we must learn to be able to distinguish between the two.

Typically, when it comes to simple questions of right and wrong, it is an easy task to determine which is which. For example, is it right or wrong to steal? Anyone in good conscience could not say it was right, therefore it is deemed wrong. But what about questions of right and wrong that are more complex in nature. For example, let’s say the automatic teller machine (ATM) spits out an extra one hundred dollars in cash. Would you report it to the bank, or take it, walk away, and keep your mouth shut? It is an interesting dilemma. There is no doubt there would be people who would take the money, considering how tempting it is. But there are also those who would be willing to do without it and return it to the bank. This goes back to last week’s topic, choices. We can give in to temptation and potentially damage our ethical judgement, or we resist it and keep that intact.

Before we go back to Biblical times and discuss the Pharisees a little more, I would like to bring one more social dilemma to the surface. In a world where evil exists, crime is committed. Sometimes, in some countries, these crimes are punished by means of the death penalty. But is the death penalty morally justified? Again, this is one of those questions that divides society. Some would say the death penalty is deserved given the nature of the crime (usually something morally reprehensible). These people would likely argue that it is better the criminal is put to death rather than spending decades in prison leeching off the taxpayer dollar. On the other hand, those who oppose the death penalty would argue it is morally wrong. For transparency, I am one of those people. People like me (although I do not claim to speak for all of them), would typically be of the line of thinking that if we are to kill a man for what he has done, we are no better than he. As a Catholic myself, I cannot in good conscience condemn a man to death. That is not to say all those of the faith agree with me. There are some who would side with those in favour of the death penalty. But as someone who believes in the value of human life, life created by God Himself, I view it as morally wrong for us to take it. After all, one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai was “Thou shalt not kill”.

Back to the Pharisees. The Pharisees took the Ten Commandments and expanded them, creating in total 613 rules (6+1+3=10). However, they often failed themselves to follow the rules they imposed upon the people. They were, as Jesus labelled them, hypocrites. It is interesting given that even today, governments and politicians do the very same, failing to adhere to the rules they set down upon the general public. But the Pharisees’ hold upon society started to waiver when Jesus Christ began His ministry. Throughout this time, Jesus often broke the rules of the Pharisees. That is not to say He broke any of the Ten Commandments, but instead adhered to those and not to the interpretations made by the Pharisees to get to 613 rules. Jesus only ever broke the rules for the benefit of others, never for Himself. He healed a leper, an outcast of society, even though the people were told not to touch these individuals for fear of becoming unclean. As previously mentioned, He denounced the Pharisees, the religious rulers of the time, because they forewent more important things like caring for others and promoting mercy and justice to instead keep to the letter of the law. On one Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were following Him through grain fields, and began to pick some of the grain. Being a day of rest, this was frowned upon by the Pharisees. We see this described in Mark 2:24, 27:

Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! They are doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath!” – Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

In this way, Jesus makes the Commandments originally given to Moses by God in the Old Testament perfect.

I would like to present one final example of Jesus breaking the rules to benefit others, one which goes back to the idea of moral dilemmas. This was an occasion where Jesus healed a man with a paralysed hand on the Sabbath. For the purpose of understanding and familiarity, the verse reads as follows:

On another occasion, when Jesus went to the synagogue, a man was there, who had a paralysed hand; and some people watched Jesus, to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so they could accuse Him. Jesus said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stand here in the centre.” Then He asked them, “What does the Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Then Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart. And He said to the man, ”Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was healed. But as soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6)

I think this particular verse best sums up the whole idea of righteous breaking of the rules. Within it, we see Jesus, the Son of God, putting a man whose hand was paralysed front and centre for everyone in the room to see. Clearly, those within the room know that, by the rules laid down by the rulers, the Pharisees, it is unlawful to do work such as healing someone on the Sabbath. But Jesus does so anyway, acknowledging the moral principles in the law set down by God. Before He heals the man, Jesus turns to the people gathered there watching Him, asking them to think about the Law of the Sabbath. These are people who have been living under the rule of the Pharisees for so long that they seem to have lost all sense of morality, putting their faith in the hypocritical rulers rather than in God and His Law. They would have no issue with seeing a paralysed man continue to go unhealed to protect their law. Jesus is clearly dismayed to see how far God’s people have strayed morally. He then heals the man publicly, the Pharisees reacting by seeking to destroy Him, to protect their old ways.

Much like this event in the Biblical era, in the modern day we see people putting blind faith in their leaders, in systems, in institutions. They do this to the point where they are willing to part with good judgement to protect themselves, casting out anyone who does not strictly adhere to the rules. They do this at the detriment of society and their own morality. Throughout the time of COVID-19 in particular, there has been a noticeable decline in social acceptance, and thereby public morality. I have seen, read about, and heard of countless occurrences of people showing great disdain for others, casting them out like lepers if they are do not so much as wear a mask, or even reporting their neighbours if they have more people over than is permitted by certain restrictions. Even before COVID-19 people were actively attempting to bring others down to make themselves happy. For example, people would trawl back through social media feeds to find something someone said years, even decades, ago to get them fired or turn their life upside down in any manner of ways. We should never seek to destroy other peoples’ happiness to improve our own self-worth.

I have on numerous occasions, more so in recent times, looked around wondered: how did society fall this far? How did we become so horrible to each other? The answer, I think, is clear. We have allowed our lives to become dictated by the rules. We are, too often, ruled by the rules, to the point where we have begun to worship them more than we worship God. We have strayed from the Commandments set out by Him, the only rules that should never be broken. We have put the rules above God. We have preferenced the rules over loving our neighbours. Our world has become worse for it. These kinds of things allow evil to pervade society, to take a hold on humanity.

Human beings are not perfect. We are all flawed. We are all susceptible to the temptations and corruption of evil. We do need rules to give structure to society and the way we live, but not to the point where they become subversive of the values and morality stemming from Christianity that provide the foundation upon which society has been built.

What people need to understand is this: it is ok to break the rules so long as doing so will benefit others. I know breaking the rules sounds wrong, but sometimes it is the best option. If you need a guide on how or when to break the rules, look no further than the Bible, in particular the Gospels, those four incredible Books that relay the ministry of Jesus Himself. And if you need to practice by example, look no further than Jesus Christ. He was one of the first great rule-breakers on this Earth. His working demonstrated that the rules are not the be all and end all. We can still abide by rules and maintain order while bending or breaking some of them in order to maintain morality.

And if you ever find yourself uncertain of whether or not the rule-breaking you are considering is morally right or wrong, just ask yourself a simple question:

What Would Jesus Do?

This is the third Part of a Series entitled Uncovering Christianity: Exploring the Roots of the West. This series explores the values and ideas originating from Christianity, looking back at Biblical times, and relating them to the modern world. There are central themes to each piece in this series, with key messages throughout to guide you in your own life. The series also looks at some of the threats to the roots of Western Civilization and discusses what can be done to placate them and protect the foundation of society. Keep an eye out for new series pieces each week.

Uncovering Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of The West #2 – Reflection, Suffering, And The Power Of Love

Before we begin this week’s piece, I would like to add a little tidbit about it. Prior to last night (Monday night) I had already written a piece for this week and had begun a new one for publication next week. However, when I was writing part of next week’s edition, I found that what I was writing could be its own individual part, and from that paragraph (which is the paragraph directly after the first Bible Verse quoted in this piece), this piece was born. I was originally going to publish the previously written piece last night, but I decided against it, and this came about late last night and into the early hours of this morning. I am not exactly certain what inspired it, what inspired me, but I think it may have been God once again working in His mysterious ways. I think there is a reason God wanted me to write and publish this piece instead, and I hope it will reveal itself soon.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.

Throughout our lives in the Western world, we find ourselves experiencing times of suffering and times of reflection. At times, we are also blessed to feel the power of love in our lives, that remarkable thing that is often beyond description, at least from our human perspective. It is something that has the power to bring people together, to bind one person with another, to change lives, to enflame the heart and soul and fill us with the greatest joy. These three things: suffering, reflection, and love, are essential to humanity, and to a stable society. So, let’s explore them a little more in depth.

When God created man and woman, He created them for each other, so that they may join together as one and create a family (we will look at family in the next edition of this series).

There is a verse from the book of Genesis, 2:24 that says:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Essentially, when a man finds a wife, he would leave the loving care of his mother and father and become one with the woman he marries. Their hearts and souls would be united. It is quite a beautiful thing to think about, the joining of two hearts and souls as one. It is as if each of us as individuals possesses one half of a heart and one half of a soul, yearning to find their counterparts, their other halves. We go on a journey in our life to find the missing piece of our own internal puzzle, that piece that without which we are lost, not our best selves, not enough. But when we find it, it completes us, enlivening our lives, and a bright light bursts forward from within the deepest confines of our very soul. I like to think that two souls that are meant to be together will attract to each other, almost like they have a magnetism to them, at the perfect time.

While sometimes it may be hard to believe that there is a perfect time, it does indeed exist, just not in the way we think. It is important to understand nothing in this world is perfect. We are all human, we all have flaws. But that should not bring us down. Rather, it should lift us up. We should be grateful for our flaws, because they make us unique. If the world was made up of people who were all the same, this would be a very dull existence. God made us all in His image, but each one of us was made in a different way, with different personalities, features, gifts, ambitions, and, of course, imperfections. But that is where perfection lies, in our imperfections. Our imperfections are what gives us our edge, what allows us to stand out from the crowd.

In reality, there is no perfect time for anything, at least not in the human sense. But God’s timing is perfect. Even though at times it may seem as if God’s timing is wrong, it is always right. That timing may impact us in our deepest, darkest moments, but there is always a reason for it. It may be that we are pursuing a dream of ours, and something comes about that stops it short, putting us on a different path. We may not be pleased upon the initial occurrence of this change in our life, but, in time, we may see just why our path was changed. For it may just be that this new path leads us to something even greater than that which we were pursuing. This new path may lead us to meet someone who changes our life, and who we discover is the piece of the puzzle we have been missing. It is at such a point in our lives that we would look back and reflect on how we came to find this incredible person. And that is where we realise that if it had not been for the sudden and at first unwanted change in the direction of our life, we would have never found that person, that amazing human being that would change our life forever. That right there is God’s timing, and it is truly beyond words.

I often reflect back on my own life thus far these days, particularly on the last two or so years. For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid reader, and that love of books and stories turned into a passion for writing stories of my own. By the time I hit Year 9 in high school, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to turn that passion for writing into a career. After I graduated high school, I decided to take a year to figure out what area of writing I wanted to journey into. I had, for years, dreamed of writing a novel, something I still aspire to do today. But I had developed a penchant for politics, so I decided it might be better to go into journalism. I tossed up journalism and creative writing for a while, until I ended up deciding to study both. In the first half of 2019, my life was nothing short of a living nightmare. Dealing with the harsh return of my anxiety, I could not cope with study just yet, so I delayed from March to May. It took me some time, but I finally decided to seek help, and with the aid of a counsellor I got better. After a few more promising months, an assessment led to increased stress, and once again to increased anxiety. After another month or so, it had receded somewhat, only to be brought back on in the first half of 2020. After the passing of my pop, and the period of isolation that followed upon the arrival of COVID-19, I was in a pretty bad way again. Even after seeing a doctor, being put on medication, and starting psychology, it was still months before I really felt like I was back to myself.

It was not until about mid-September 2020 that I felt alive again. It was around this time that I became acquainted with someone new and like-minded, finding myself enthralled at this connection. Over the months to come, I learnt more that seemed too good to be true. It was either one of the most astounding coincidences, or God’s timing. I truly believe it was the latter. And I thank God for it, because without it, I would not have been able to see why I needed to go through all the pain and suffering I endured. I would not have been able to see why things happened the way they did. And I would not have found myself walking a different path that would truly change my life. If it were not for God’s timing, and the connection He brought into my life, I would not be where I am today. I would not be writing this. I have nothing but gratitude and awe for what God brought into my life.

See, that is how deep God’s love is for us. Yes, we go through times of hardship, times of great pain and suffering, but so did Jesus. Jesus, in the ultimate act of sacrifice and love, equal only to that of God the Father’s act of sacrifice and love (giving His Only Son so that we may have eternal life), went to His death upon the Cross, so that we would be saved from sin and be able to spend eternal life in paradise in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus suffered greatly in the lead up to His crucifixion, but He did so out of love for us. God the Father sent His Only Son down to Earth to live amongst us and die upon the Cross out of love for His people.

When we suffer, we may not know why this is happening to us at the time. But, in time, the reason for our suffering will reveal itself to us. Indeed, pain lets us know that we are human. Without it, we would be unable to measure the goodness, the happiness in our lives. We cannot merely do away with pain for the sake of pursuing some utopia in our lives with only the good. If we were to do that, we would eventually lose sight of what is good and what is not. And, most tragically of all, we would struggle to comprehend love.

Pain is a necessary part of life. But it does not have to be a burden. Rather, it is a learning curve, albeit we often do not realise this until some time later. From pain comes love, from darkness comes light. Within my life, I have found a ray of light that has guided me out of the dark abyss I was lost in for the greater part of two years. I hope that each and every one of you who reads this will also find that light in your lives if you have not already. No matter what you are going through, trust in God and He will guide you through it. For God Himself is love, He is light, and He is the way.

To finish, I would like to share (although I have done so before in a different piece) my favourite Bible Verse, one that I keep close to my heart each and every day of my life:

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8, 13

This is the second Part of a Series entitled Uncovering Christianity: Exploring the Roots of the West. This series explores the values and ideas originating from Christianity, looking back at Biblical times, and relating them to the modern world. There are central themes to each piece in this series, with key messages throughout to guide you in your own life. The series also looks at some of the threats to the roots of Western Civilization and discusses what can be done to placate them and protect the foundation of society. Keep an eye out for new series pieces each week.