Choosing to live according to one’s faith is difficult. It’s instinctual to want to settle into what is comfortable and easy, and more often than not, we avoid the constricted path that leads us somewhere scary or unfamiliar.
But Christ calls us to choose the harder road! He calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him.
Is it worth it? Below are five examples of when I received tremendous blessings by taking the road less traveled:
1-STEP OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE.
It’s easier to choose the familiar than it is to step out of the comfort zone. In my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to pursue a degree in theology. God placed this on my heart, and though I was excited, I was nevertheless scared. Pursuing my dream would lead me a thousand miles from home. I didn’t know anyone, and I wondered if leaving was a huge mistake.
Despite my uncertainty, I headed to college. My roommates were kind, the campus was thriving and I loved my classes. Nevertheless, I experienced deep sadness because I missed my friends and family. The culture shock of moving from New Mexico to Kansas was one thing, but the loneliness I experienced was worse.
Though I felt lost and wanted to leave, I decided to make the best of my surroundings. I started going to nightly Mass, began cantoring, got involved in youth ministry and slowly began making friends.
I am so glad I didn’t go home when things got difficult. I left with an amazing Catholic education, friends that will last a lifetime and most significantly, I began dating my husband just before graduation. I don’t know where I’d be if I’d caved to fear.
2-DON’T GIVE UP AND GIVE IN.
Choosing God’s path over what’s popular in our culture can be difficult. Society impacts our lives by normalizing many things that contradict our faith, and it can be hard to turn away from societal norms—particularly when it comes to sex, love and marriage!
At first, following God’s plan for love wasn’t difficult for me. I decided to commit to it because everything I learned about Church teachings convinced me that God’s way was the only path to authentic love.
However, deciding to follow God’s plan is one thing…committing to it is another. I soon began to see how difficult it would be. Besides personal temptations, I wrestled with my desire for control. I also faced ridicule and persecution for my countercultural decisions. At times, I was belittled and mocked— even by those I thought loved me. Still, I knew in my heart it was worth it. Whenever I turned from God, I experienced guilt, emptiness and heartbreak.
The culture teaches us to seek comfort, pleasure and advantage, but these choices will never lead us to the kind of happiness God wants for us. My experience taught me that even though God’s plan for love is harder, it opens the door to true freedom and fulfilment in love.
3-EMBRACE THE UNCERTAINTY.
One of the most difficult and rejected teachings of the faith is the teaching on contraception. Though widely accepted in our world today, our Church is against the use of contraceptives. Not only is this extremely countercultural, but it opens our lives to uncertainty, taking away our feeling of control.
Before I was married, this was always a non-issue. I loved the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, and had also seen the research on the physical and psychological damage contraception causes women. The idea of “birth control” wasn’t even a thought for me until I was engaged.
As our wedding approached, I began experiencing the difficulties that would follow if we were faithful to this teaching. I couldn’t imagine getting pregnant right away, let alone on our wedding night! I was afraid of the path God was calling us to walk.
Though it took time, I began to see that God’s way has hidden fruits that are well worth all the hardship and uncertainty we face by obeying Church teachings. Through it all, God was opening my eyes to the inherent value of marital love as he designed it.
While our culture separates sex, love and marriage (as if these three elements aren’t intimately connected), the Church reminds us they are intimately connected. The Church calls us to see that marital love is more than just about an exchange of goods and personal ideals, but is an exchange of persons—body and spirit. The unitive and procreative aspects are thus essential in marriage, and when one is removed, human love as God designed it is diminished.
It’s been a journey to release our desire to control and define fertility for ourselves. But, despite the many ups and downs we’ve experienced in remaining faithful to this road less traveled—including unexpected pregnancies, frequent periods of abstinence and miscarriage—our level of communication has deepened and our love has broadened. I know without a doubt that had we softened to the ways of the world, we would’ve missed out on tremendous blessings.
4-RELY ON GOD’S PROVIDENCE.
Buying a first house can be daunting. It’s hard to trust that God is leading the way, especially when the process is long and arduous.
For months, we searched for our first home, and we became incredibly disheartened after continuously coming up short. Houses were selling before we could even place an offer, and in the moments when we had an opportunity to place a bid, they were selling for higher or they’d fall through because of faulty inspections. To top it off, as we searched for our home, our landlord put our rental on the market. We felt pressure to move as soon as possible, but the options were limiting.
Honestly, I hadn’t prayed much about the process. I found it hard to place my trust in God. After much despair, I resolved to trust him and embrace this path that would lead us to our home in his time.
To my surprise, not one week later, God responded unexpectedly. After a long day showing our rental to prospective buyers, I ran into a man from church. He noticed my frustration and asked about my troubles. I told him about our situation, and was shocked when he responded saying he had a home for us. It turned out he and his wife were holding on to his late mother-in-law’s house, hoping it would go to a good family. He thought it would be perfect for us, and after seeing it, we happily purchased the home.
I am certain that God wanted us to take the harder road on the way to finding our home. It taught me that when we rely on God’s providence, he always provides.
5-BEAR THROUGH AFFLICTIONS.
A lot of people avoid having children because they feel they’re not “ready” for it. A new life brings great change and challenges, and it’s hard to be completely open to the obstacles a new baby brings.
Our faith, however, calls us to be open to life no matter our “readiness.” I always thought I had completely accepted this, but I learned after the birth of our second child that I hadn’t completely opened myself to follow this path in a spiritual sense. Our second child suffered with colic for months. The stress of it was incredibly hard on our family and was honestly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever endured. Needless to say, we weren’t “ready” for another baby. Yet, after 11 months, we found ourselves expecting again.
I was upset with God for weeks. I couldn’t understand why he allowed this after all we had just been through. I was afraid and didn’t want to accept the challenges that a new baby would bring us.
At some point, I realized I could carry that fear and worry into my pregnancy, or I could choose to walk this path with grace and love for our child. We had chosen to trust God with our fertility, and I had to acknowledge that he knows my heart better than I do. Our baby would be a blessing to us. Yet, just as I started to release my fear and worry, I miscarried our baby.
The whole experience was achingly difficult, but I learned through our loss what it means to truly accept the harder path in life. So often, we allow the difficulties we face to defeat us, but really, our afflictions in life help us grow and be strengthened. The heartbreak we experienced allowed us to see that the beauty of a new life far outweighs any struggles we face as parents. Through our loss, I gained a deeper appreciation for the sacredness and dignity of life, and can now see that true “readiness” means following the path God calls us on, no matter where it leads.
“OUR CONCERN MUST BE TO KNOW GOD’S WILL. WE MUST ENTER THAT PATH; IF GOD WANTS, WHEN GOD WANTS, HOW GOD WANTS.”-ST. GIANNA MOLLA.
Lauren Montgomery is a writer, speaker and RCIA teacher. She has a deep passion for the Catholic faith and seeks to encourage others to grow deeper in their love for the Lord. She graduated from Benedictine College in 2010 and holds a Masters of Art in Theology from the University of Dallas. She is from New Mexico, and now lives in Kansas City with her husband and three young children. To find more of Lauren’s writing or to book her for speaking or writing engagements, visit Byloverefined.com, or connect with her on Instagram @byloverefined.