…Obstacles and Their Uses…
(from a February 6, 1977 conference)

Imagine a great scientist who wanted to produce an aeroplane that would go forward at an enormous speed.  He tried all sorts of designs and all kinds of engines and various materials, but he could never get it to go fast enough.  So he did a bit of research and came to the conclusion that it was not the aeroplane he had designed that was at fault.  The reason it would not go faster was that there was air resistance which stopped it going faster.  So being a great scientist, he found a way of getting rid of the air resistance . . . but there was one snag about his aeroplane shooting forward without any air resistance.  It would not rise from the ground.
If we, or even God, removed all resistance we have to push against in our spiritual lives, we might go forward faster, but we should not rise up to God at all.  Every difficulty we overcome, every resistance we push through, every obstacle we refuse to be stopped by causes us to rise towards God.  Life lived for God is an uphill struggle.  It is by fighting that we come to God.  Union with God is the reward for victory.  He is with us in the struggle; He is with us in the fight, but God wants us to make an effort all the time.

Next time you think that you cannot get as close to God as you want because you find prayer difficult, instead of giving up prayer, pray all the more, and you will soar into the air towards God.  Next time you feel that such and such a person is so difficult to get on with that you want to avoid him, go and do him a favor, and you will rise several degrees in the spiritual life.  Next time you feel that you cannot face a certain form of self-denial that has come into your mind, take it up and force yourself to do it, and you will take off from the ground and fly towards God.

Whatever things about you or your circumstances seem to you to be obstacles or barriers on the way to God are there to lift you up.  Move against them; push your way through them, and like an aeroplane that takes off because of air pressure, so will you advance to greater heights in your life for God.  Use all difficulties as stepping stones or a stairway up towards God.  Our lives are full of opportunities of this kind.  The very things we complain about are often the most valuable in helping us get to God.

. . . In any review of our spiritual life, the state of our prayer is of the first importance.  Our spiritual temperature is measured by our prayer.  In the Book of the Apocalypse (Revelation) at the end of the Bible, Our Lord reproaches some of His followers because they are lukewarm. . . If your prayer is unsatisfactory in your view, but you still keep it up, and as time goes on increase the time you give to it, then you are not lukewarm.  You are pushing against the air pressure, so to speak, and will get closer to God. . .

Our upward path to God is not only made by improving our prayer but also by becoming more charitable towards other people. . . we cannot go on increasing the number of people we are kind to all our lives, or the number would become impossible to meet, let alone help, but we should see that we grow in kindness and consideration for those who are close to us, and decide whether God wants us to contact others or not. . .  Let us live for the love of God and love of our neighbor and remember that charity begins at home.  What we are like at home is more likely to be what we are really like than the appearance we have among outsiders.

Our upward path is also helped or hindered by our spiritual reading.  This is a quiet, relaxed, and pleasant reading of a spiritual book that suits us and which makes us want God or prayer more.  It is also instructional, but its main purpose is to feed the heart rather than the mind.  Are we doing enough spiritual reading?  What is the ratio between the time we spend at spiritual reading and the time we spend at other reading? . . . If we have difficulties in mental prayer, they may very well be due to the starvation that results from not doing regular spiritual reading.

There is a place, too, in the spiritual life for mortification or self-denial.  Jesus did say that if we wanted to be His disciples we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.  So we ought to decide whether we are practicing enough self-denial or not. . . Self denial is a real means of moving up towards God, and its absence leaves us in danger of running down hill fast. . .

There is a certain difficulty in living up to our rules about prayer and charity and reading and mortification, but don’t forget that aeroplane.  The greater the air pressure it overcomes, the more it goes up, and we want to fly to God. . . . when we overcome the pressure, when we push against the difficulties and without complaint keep on trying, then we begin to fly to God, and He will lift us up higher still.

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