WAITING: As Christians approach the season of Advent – the season of waiting again for Christ to be born – I am reminded about how hard it often is to wait. For birthdays, for your beloved to return home, for a healing. Yet, I remember that waiting for something important to happen is part of the joy when the special day, special person, arrives. The old trope, “Absence makes the waiting for  heart grow fonder” may seem unduly romantic but there is something about waiting for a good thing to happen that makes it more precious. We may not like the waiting, but if every day were your birthday, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Sooo, waiting for Christmas multiplies the joy.

FASTING: Recently, I’ve come to a similar insight about fasting. Several years ago, I decided to not only fast from meat on Friday’s but also sweets. Sure, this started in childhood when for Catholics not eating meat on Fridays was an honored tradition. I went along with it since there was plenty of good food that wasn’t meat based.

However, as my environmental awareness increased, moving toward a more plant-based diet was a natural progression. Sure, I’d give up sweets for Lent but eventually I added all Fridays as dessert free days. Although this started as a religious tradition, only recently have I discovered a positive emotional component to this custom. I’m finding that one day of fasting makes the other non-fasting days more precious. “Yea! Today is Saturday, I get to have dessert again!” Every day that I allow myself a dessert, it feels more like a treat 😊.

This makes me start to wonder if there are other “treats” that become more precious because I choose the self-denial of waiting for something good – like delaying a purchase of a new piece of clothing. It also reminds me that there are many people around the world who don’t have a choice to fast. They don’t have enough food or money to buy it with. This motivates me to donate to hunger charities and continue volunteering at a local soup kitchen.

PROBLEMS: Although I would never choose poor health or voluntarily do something to damage my health, after an illness, I am grateful for the health that I previously took for granted.

Nobody likes to suffer, but I’m starting to notice that when hard times come, whether it be a painful relationship, a fear, loss of employment, whatever, working through the hardship can be a window to growth, a new skill, deeper love than I would have known if life had gone more smoothly. Hmmmm. Challenges – intentional or unbidden – can   be a pathway to new growth.

What problems have you faced that ended up being a blessing in disguise?

Sometimes we may have to wait awhile to recognize the blessing that might follow a hardship. But pause, and ponder that perhaps the lesson is: growing in patience.