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The Spirituality of Struggle

shore and river w cBy Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.

Have you ever struggled with a decision and the weight of it lays heavily on your heart, where the burden may ease at times and bore down at others? You pray, but don’t get clarity.

Sometimes I find my prayer’s focus is targeting the wrong frame, an inaccurate question. I’ve found myself praying over a yes-or-no when in fact my prayer needed to be a broader plea for help.

As my friend Susan said, if I had gotten that yes/no answer my learning would have been so small.

I’m starting to see that if I’m not getting clarity, perhaps I need to look at my question and broaden it out. God is not myopic and prayers that are tend to be not so helpful.

Sometimes the simple prayer is the best: help. Or, God, you know my heart, please help. And then trustingly waiting for clarity.

I have found solace in this quote by Lao-Tzu:
Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?

What is your experience?

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stephburgevinJane KniffinvalerieMary Beth Martin Recent comment authors
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Mary Beth Martin
Mary Beth Martin

Yes, great ideas. When we define the question using our own set of choices, we are still controlling the outcome. The options and the asking are all about us. But when we truly let God into the equation, anything could happen. And that should be just fine with us.


Patience is a virtue… after being Funemployed for a year and praying daily for “the right job to present itself”, I think it is time to change my prayer… not quite sure what it will become, but you have made me realize that I have gotten in a rut by reciting the same prayer day after day! From now on, my prayers need to come freely and sincerely from my heart… thanks, Stephanie:)

Jane Kniffin
Jane Kniffin

Love Lao-Tzu…his teachings never let me down. Two things I’ve learned from the Tao te Ching: to yield and to have unending patience…not that I practice them perfectly.


What great lessons! Thanks!