Religion begins with personal spirituality. Spirituality begins with the question: Is there meaning to life? If so, what is it? How does that play out in my own life? And is this life all there is? In seeking meaning in life, inevitably we come to the question of the reason for suffering. No religion seems to have come up with an easy answer to that, but many including Buddhism and Christianity have come up with similar ways for dealing with suffering. The core spiritual response to personal suffering seems to be acceptance in the sense of embracing it. Much of the time we are unable to bail out of the actual situation that causes us pain, but we can and often do seek the means to dull the pain or at least pass it on to those around us. A few of these escape attempts are emotional denial, depression, addictions, self-pity, resentment, anger, or the delusion that if we can somehow overcome a particular difficult situation, then our troubles will be over. Unfortunately, these responses to suffering will eventually cripple us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Acceptance/embracing is scary. It means going down into the snake pit of our feelings, into the black bog of our fears and sorrows and actually experiencing them, even feeling the overwhelming pain of them. But at that point, we find solid ground, the fire tested gold at the core of our being. And while we may go through the pain of this process many times in our life, it is no longer a terrifying free fall into the unknown. In letting go of our own will by embracing reality, we find God, grace, strength, peace, even joy, within.
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