Lent an opportunity for change

By James Willoughby

Pain is part of life. If you have yet to experience deep, foundation-shaking pain in your life, you must be about 10 years old. You’re really not the target audience for your article, so you can go back to playing Pokémon or watching cartoons. Oh, and spoiler alert — your time will come.

For the rest of us, here are a few lines from a Longfellow poem that state my point more eloquently, “Thy fate is the common fate of all/Into each life some rain must fall/Some days must be dark and dreary.” These dark days can be ushered in by many different triggers: a hurting marriage, job loss, health problems, losing loved ones, financial struggles and rejection are just a few of the afflictions dotting life’s landscape.

The longer we live, the greater the likelihood that we will encounter situations in life that will knock our legs out from under us. The wind will be taken from our sails. We will be brought low. Most of us will pray the pain away with vigor, but perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the dismal seasons in our lives.

I know pain. I dabbled in it as an adolescent, not quite fitting into most social circles and moving every couple years. Involuntary solitude doesn’t feel good, but I really dove headlong into hurt as an adult.

In a five year span I lost my sister, both my grandmas, my father-in-law, my dog and very nearly lost my marriage. My job satisfaction was at an all-time low, and I had no sense of purpose in my life. I was miserable.

While I would not wish that kind of pain on anyone, I was transformed through it. The hurt changed my perspective on life. Recognizing the frailty of existence and how short life is, I sought purpose. I began to work on my marriage, which really meant I was working on becoming a better version of me. And I became a vessel help transform other marriages.

Most of our existence is spent avoiding pain. Comfort can become a god. When we amass enough income and possessions, we say, “We are blessed with a comfortable life.” Being comfortable is not a blessing. It is a sleeping pill and a cup of warm milk.

Sax player, Sonny Rollins said, “Many jazz artists go to L.A. seeking a more comfortable life and then they really stop playing.” Comfort stops many of us from playing. It destroys drive, breeds complacency and insulates us from the suffering of others.

During Lent, many of us strip away the comforts that dull us. We break ourselves from the sleepy routines of life with hopes that change will bring fresh perspective. We seek to replace time-stealing habits with those that will grow us. We go without to remind ourselves that there are people in our community who are hungry and hurting.

Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate and sharing it on social media. It is about transformation. In what area of your life do you need to get uncomfortable?


By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.