Pushed to the Limit

Quite often a prayer request to the monastery will contain the words, ‘I feel pushed to the limit.’ Most of us can probably identify with that. So many things are beyond our control. No matter how hard we try, there are times when everything seems to go into melt-down and our ability to cope disintegrates completely. We just can’t get through to X or Y. Despite all our efforts, the bills keep mounting and now this! Just when we thought we had got everything sorted, we discovered we hadn’t thought of that. Even in the monastery — I’m tempted to say, especially in the monastery — there are times when we are reduced to asking God — if there is a God, that is — why He has brought us to this. Faith, trust, everything goes. We are just a little blot on the face of the earth, exhausted and alone.

We can agree that feeling pushed to the limit is a fairly common human experience, but what we may not agree is that it is also a divine experience. God has more faith in us than we do ourselves. That doesn’t mean we can somehow summon up some ‘soul energy’ and confront whatever it is that is pushing us down and reduce it to nothing. Dragon slayers are not so easily found nowadays. I mean something messier and less triumphant. No matter how down we are, no matter how helpless we feel, the mercy of God is lower still. We probably won’t realise it because if we did, we wouldn’t be at our lowest ebb. Somewhere in that horrible, aching void we feel inside, in that sense of personal failure and distress, there is Christ. Not the Christ who rose triumphantly from the tomb, but the Christ who hangs on the cross with us and shares our pain. When we are pushed to the limit, God has some good purpose in mind. One day we may be able to look back and see that it was so. It is much more likely that we never will in this life. Being pushed to the limit takes us to the edge of eternity, makes us tremble on the brink of God’s infinite mystery, where we live by faith — our faith in God, and even more astonishing, His faith in us.

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