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Thomas Keating  (1990, Awakenings, New York: Crossroad Publishing) has described one’s spiritual journey as a walk across stormy water, and he points out  when things get too rough we ask for help and are saved. He emphasizes that this will happen over and over again—–that the “only mistake is to go down and stay down; to sink and not yell for help”(p. 15).  Keating goes on to say, “God is hidden in difficulties. If we can find him there, we will never lose him. Without difficulties, we do not know the power of  God’s mercy and the incredible destiny he has for each  of us” (p. 15).

I find that last quote quite comforting because it gives my questioning mind a purpose for the trials encountered in the course of a lifetime. But, I find it equally discomforting when I view it as a justification for all the difficulties of this world. Then I have to read the quote over again and realize it is not saying the “ends justify the means.” It is saying if we want to survive difficulties we need to ask for help. It is also saying once God’s help saves us we come to know and accept God’s power and love and then it becomes easier to ask for help in the future. In addition, following a spiritual path gives us the gift of an evolving discernment——the ability to recognize  and hopefully avoid our own part in creating difficulties and problems. It is wondrous to be able to ask and receive help for  helping yourself so that you don’t have to start “sinking” before you seek help.

Keating’s discussion is directly applicable to recovery. To begin recovering we have to realize we need help and we need to ask for it. In the beginning we are usually motivated to ask for help because we are “sinking in a frightful way” when we “hit bottom.” As we stop sinking and start to climb the 12 steps out of the abyss with the help of our higher power, we learn to ask our higher power for help on a daily basis and to change our behaviors so that we can stay afloat and not relapse into the abyss again. Sometimes we have to enter the abyss repeatedly before we are ready to truly accept help and start building a strong spiritual recovery.

Please comment and share your thoughts about how difficulties are related to our relationship with God/Higher Power. God bless and keep you.