In the book, Anam Cara, John O’Donahue shares an idea from Blaise Pascal that is good advice: In a difficult time, you should always keep something beautiful in your heart.
It is easy to be brought down by difficult seasons and events. None of us are immune from tough times, but while we may not choose the struggle, we can choose our response to it. Pascal’s wisdom can be part of our response. To hold something beautiful in my heart keeps me from being defined by whatever difficulty I’m facing. It shapes my thinking and helps me to recognize the seasonality of struggle.
Keeping something beautiful in my heart does more than counterbalance the difficulty; it likewise keeps me from despair and allows me instead to be hopeful. There is a very fine line between hope and despair, and the perspective I bring to struggle determines whether I endure the struggle with hope or am sucked into the mire of despair.
As I hold something beautiful in my heart, I am also invited to be gentle with myself. Difficulty is not a time for blame, shame or guilt. These hold me in the hard place and keep me from moving through the struggle. Blame, shame and guilt are paralyzing and prevent growth.
Just as seeds begin in the darkness of earth and have to move through darkness to get to light, we have to keep gently growing through our own seasons of darkness and struggle until we break into the light where we can grow and flourish. The seed holds something beautiful within itself, the image of what it is to become. The same is true of us. This is good to remember when we are in the midst of difficulty.