Abbot Phillip Lawrence, OSB, at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico, offers these reflections on the paradoxical struggle for peace:
“The challenge for anyone who wants peace is to create peace within. That is the first challenge. Saint Seraphim of Sarov said in one of his sayings that if we acquire a spirit of peace, and thousands of souls will be saved around us. We don’t have to fight the world or to fight others. The first and really only battle is with ourselves. In much of the spiritual tradition, there is reference to the spiritual struggle, the spiritual battle, etc. That battle is always against ourselves so that we may have peace and love others without judging them.
In my own life I have gone through times when peace has been easy and has been a wonderful gift. At other times, though, I can feel my own reactions which are against peace. That is the point where there is a choice: seek peace and pursue it or play host to my bad feelings and angers and lusts and fears and let them push my life in all directions. Just because I try to choose to seek peace does not make it easy! Instead, part of growing in the spiritual life is learning to embrace such battles and not weary in pursuing peace. Most of us know when we have accepted anger or lust or fear or laziness.
It is when we become aware that we have accepted such realities in our lives that we have the chance to choose against them. Sometimes these realities creep up on us and we are not aware of them. But in that moment that we become aware, we have the choice. If we are engaged in the spiritual battle regularly, we tend to make better choices, even if not always the best choices. So if I were to give advice to anyone about the spiritual life, it would be simple: start now to try to do God’s will! No matter how often you fail, keep on trying. In time good things will begin to happen along with the necessary suffering that trying to do His will entails. … Stay with it! …
So often, when we seek the spiritual life, we are hoping to feel good. An honest spiritual life sometimes has those moments of feeling good. But it also has long stretches of not feeling much and sometimes periods of feeling awful about ourselves, about others and even about God. Be prepared to suffer if you want a deep spiritual life.”–Abbot Philip, Christ in the Desert
Read Abbot Philip’s whole reflection.